It was just over 20 months ago that the first call was made to the Giants' offices with a scary report that lacked many important details. Their star defensive end had been involved in a fireworks accident, and no one could tell them how bad it really was.
In the days that followed, as they struggled to get information, the anger inside their offices grew. By the time the extent of the damage to Jason Pierre-Paul's right hand was clear, his NFL future was in doubt. And if he had one, it sure looked like his bridge back to the Giants had been burned.
Less than two years later, JPP's miracle return is complete. He's not just an NFL player, he's again one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, and a key cog in the Giants' defense. He's also once again a big part of the Giants' future, which they secured on Friday when they signed him to a massive, four-year, $62 million deal.
Imagine that from the perspective of July 4, 2015, when JPP was in the hospital awaiting the amputation of fingers from his right hand, with the Giants literally left on the outside getting some of their information from the press. A long-term contract was on the table back then, but it was quickly put off. And it seemed a safe bet that it would never be back on again.
But it's a testament to Pierre-Paul's character and work-ethic, and to the faith of the Giants -- particularly GM Jerry Reese -- that JPP and the Giants never abandoned one another. The rift reported at the time -- which definitely was real -- was never quite as significant as it seemed. It also wasn't permanent. Both sides got over it and moved on.
It's clear now they moved on together to better things.
"This is where I wanted to be," JPP said in a statement released by the Giants. "I couldn't imagine me being anywhere else. … It means a lot to me because I started here, and obviously I want to finish here.
"We're happy to get a long-term deal with Jason," Reese added in the statement. "Not only is he one of our best players, he is one of our leaders."
That's true, which is also hard to believe from the perspective of two years ago. He seemed anything but a leader when those fireworks blew up in his hand -- an accident that obviously could have been prevented with common sense. He didn't seem to be a leader when the Giants couldn't break through the shields of his agents to get information, or when JPP -- on advice from his agents -- didn't do his initial rehab with the team.
When he returned, though, his leadership showed. He avoided the gory details of his accident, but otherwise tackled it head-on, addressing it all with team officials and any players that asked, and being relatively open about his mistake with the media. He didn't shy away from the topic. In interviews he never even hid his badly damaged hands, even as photographers constantly leaned in its direction and clicked away.
He did the mature thing -- he accepted his reality and went to work from there. He experimented with padding and gloves, not to mention new techniques to aid him on the field. He altered his training method since he could no longer fully grip the bars in the weight room. He did whatever he had to do.
He also stayed faithful to a Giants team that stood behind him. He had a bigger offer on the table when he re-signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Giants last offseason, according to a source familiar with his situation. He wanted to return to the Giants to prove his worth. And except for a small statement at the end of the season about not being willing to sign another one-year deal, he never made a big stink about the riches he expected to come his way.
He had been eyeing the five-year, $85 million deal the Giants gave Olivier Vernon last March, and he fell short of that -- though really, on average, not by much. And he deserved what he got. As good as Vernon was last season, JPP was the best pass-rusher and all-round defensive lineman on the field for the Giants last season, with seven sacks in 12 games before he needed surgery on a hernia and an injured groin.
And last season, he insisted, was really just a warm-up. It was his first full season since the accident. He was still adjusting. And now, after seeing what he can do, he's convinced the best is yet to come.
"I'll be way better (in 2017)," JPP said. "Last year I was still making adjustments. But as time goes on, (the damaged hand) is a part of me and I'm going to use it. Every day I'm learning something new with it."
He's been doing that since his first day of rehab, shortly after the accident. If he had a woe-is-me moment, he never showed it publicly. There were never any tantrums about the money he lost, or what he felt he deserved.
Instead, he worked toward a moment that no one thought could ever be a reality 20 months ago. He had faith, and so did the Giants. It's probably a miracle that they ever got to this point again, but both sides are convinced their faith in each other paid off.
"I'm happy to be here, I'm blessed to be here," JPP said. "It can't be any better. I'm a Giant for life right now."