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New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul: "I'll be better than the player I was"

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Pierre-Paul optimistic, relaxed at voluntary mini-camp.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A rainy morning that forced the team indoors couldn't obscure the fact that Tuesday, the first on-field workout for the New York Giants with Ben McAdoo as head coach, was an optimistic day for the Giants. No one was more optimistic, had a sunnier disposition if you will, than defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

After the first workout of the Giants' three-day voluntary mini-camp was over, a smiling Pierre-Paul, perhaps not always the most accommodating player in past dealings with the media, practically bounded to the podium to speak with assembled reporters.

"I think I'm in the best shape ever. Dropped a couple pounds, I'm lean, running, getting off the ball, lifting weights. I think I'm in the best shape ever," Pierre-Paul said. "Same old JPP, just goin' after it. I'm excited, man, excited."

Pierre-Paul was coy about his weight loss, saying "I'm not tellin' " when asked how many pounds he dropped. 'That's what guys do, drop weight .. I got older, man."

Pierre-Paul, of course, played only eight games last season after mangling his right hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident. He recently told the entire story of the events of the day to Sports Illustrated. Whether he's relieved to have told the story is hard to say, but he does appear to be happy.

"Everybody kinda asked me questions about it, it's out there now. It is what it is. I'm past it, I'm looking towards my future, which is bright," Pierre-Paul said.

Pierre-Paul had one final surgery on his right hand after the season which will allow him to play without the massive club on his hand. He wore a glove on Tuesday and will soon have a new, saying "y'all gotta stay tuned" to see what that looks like."

"I knew I was gonna need surgery after the season, but now I'm past that. I'm looking forward, I'm hitting the bags normal, I'm grabbing normal. I'm not even limited. Just a straight shot. That's it. No more surgeries. Straight shot," Pierre-Paul said.

One drill the Giants did was a fumble recovery drill, diving on the ball and protecting it. "I gripped the ball," Pierre-Paul said proudly. "Did you see me?"

Now 27, Pierre-Paul signed a one-year deal to remain with the Giants, a deal that could be described as a "prove it" contract.

In his mind, Pierre-Paul has no doubt he remains a dominant player.

"I am the player I used to be. Just a couple injuries. I'm all right," Pierre-Paul said. "I'll be better than the player I was."

Only time will tell if that is truly the case. What is obvious, though, is that after what has had to be a difficult period in his life Pierre-Paul has emerged as a happy young man, comfortable with who he is and confident in his ability.

That is something worth feeing good about.