What’s the physical, financial cost to JPP?
Hump Day was a bad day for digits in the NFL.
Two NFL players had fingers amputated after they were injured in separate fireworks accidents over the Fourth of July weekend.
New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who hadn’t yet signed his franchise-tag tender of $14.8 million, had his right index finger amputated Wednesday, a move that was apparently made to speed his recovery and his return to the football field. It was a decision reminiscent of Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, who had the tip of his pinkie, which was injured while making a tackle, amputated in 1986 rather than having a pin inserted so he wouldn’t miss any playing time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback C.J. Wilson lost two fingers, his index and middle finger, this week when he was holding a fireworks canister that exploded in his hand. The Bucs released a statement saying they are aware of the accident and have been in contact with Wilson.
Wilson’s injury could be more serious considering his had his middle two fingers amputated, according to the reports out of Florida. Pierre-Paul could start the season on the non-football-injury list, which would mean he wouldn’t be paid.
ESPN obtained and published the medical records proving that Pierre-Paul’s finger was amputated, which in itself could enact a lawsuit from his camp under medical privacy laws, but the bigger football picture is if/when Pierre-Paul will return to the field and how effective he can be.
It may seem outlandish, but he very well could return to the field before mid-season.
“Medical fact: Index finger is least important for power grip,” Dr. David Chao wrote on Twitter. “If this is JPP only injury, he will do fine in NFL. Wish him the best.”
Chao should know. He is a former head physician of NFL teams with 17 years of sideline experience and an orthopedic surgeon now in San Diego.
Chao took it a step further, ranking the order of importance of fingers for defensive ends. The thumb was first, followed by ring finger, pinkie, middle finger and then index finger.
But Pierre-Paul also has a fractured thumb, according to ESPN, that could take six weeks to heal. That would mean he would miss most, if not all, of training camp and at least some of the preseason. The non-football-injury list would appear to be a very real option, and after multiple surgeries, Pierre-Paul is expected to remain in the hospital until this weekend, making it close to a one-week stay in the hospital for few-seconds lapse in judgment.
It could also cost him some serious cash. After learning of the accident, the Giants, who placed the franchise tag on him in hopes of being able to negotiate a long-term contract, rescinded their long-term, $60 million contract, which Pierre-Paul wasn’t likely to sign anyways. He has until July 15 to sign the franchise tender and still be able to negotiate a long-term contract, but more than likely those negotiations will be put on hold until the Giants see how he can perform with an index finger on his right hand.
By not signing his franchise tender, Pierre-Paul was taking a risk. It remains to be seen just how costly his accident will be. It’s already cost him a finger and could cost him a long-term contract.
If he is on the non-football-injury list for six weeks, it could cost him $5.2 million, an expensive accident, indeed. If he plays under his $14.8 million franchise tag, he would be the most expensive 4-3 defensive end in the NFL this year.
Last year, Pierre-Paul was third among defensive linemen and first among 4-3 defensive ends with 14½ sacks, but he might have been even better against the run than he is rushing the passer, with 54 tackles. He also forced three fumbles and recovered one.
Now he’s simply left to recover from his accident, one that could also lead to charges in Florida for illegal fireworks.
“Let’s just take a minute to pray for JPP’s speedy recovery. A mistake was made. It’s done,” former teammate Osi Umenyiora tweeted. “He is a great man and great player. He’ll be back.”
Yes, Pierre-Paul should be back, but when? And will he be the same type of player? Those are questions that can’t be answered now, and maybe not for months. Meanwhile, he remains in the hospital, left to think about how one decision could alter his career and earnings.
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