Jason Pierre-Paul may be nearing a return to game action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, five months after he sustained a neck injury in an offseason auto accident.
Pierre-Paul, who has 71.0 career sacks including a team-high 12.5 for the Buccaneers last year, has been on the reserve/NFI list since the beginning of the regular season, but he returned to the practice field on Tuesday and could be back on the active roster within the next three weeks.
Being placed on reserve/NFI required Pierre-Paul to miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. He was first eligible to return to practice on Monday and the Bucs moved quickly to get him back on the field. Even though the team as a whole is not practicing during its bye week, Pierre-Paul began work with a few coaches and practice-squad teammates on Tuesday.
Now that Pierre-Paul has begun that on-field work, a 21-day window begins in which he can practice but does not count against the 53-man roster. The Buccaneers can activate him to the roster at any time in the next three weeks and thus have him available for games.
By the end of that 21-day window, which closes at 4:00 p.m. ET on November 6, the Buccaneers must choose to either put him on the 53-man roster or have him remain on the reserve list for the remainder of the season. That means the latest the team could activate the second-year defender is before their Week 10 home game against Arizona on Nov. 10. There would be eight games remaining in the regular season at that point.
Pierre-Paul's return could be a huge boost to the Buccaneers' pass rush, which has generated 13 sacks through six games, nine of them belonging to Shaq Barrett, the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month in September. Pierre-Paul would join a potentially dangerous rotation of edge rushers including Barrett, Carl Nassib (two sacks) and developing rookie Anthony Nelson.
Pierre-Paul's 12.5 sacks in 2018 marked the first time a Buccaneer defender had hit double digits in that category since Simeon Rice in 2005. Pierre-Paul tied for 12th in the NFL in sacks last year and also compiled 58 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. It was his first season as a Buccaneer after eight with the New York Giants. The former first-round pick out of nearby USF, taken 15th overall, was traded to Tampa Bay on March 22, 2018 in exchange for a third-round draft pick and a swap of two fourth-round picks.