But citing league sources, ESPN reported that the 30-year-old “suffered a potentially season-ending fractured neck” and plans to get opinions from neck specialists this week.
The NFL Network reported that the Buccaneers’ medical staff grew concerned after obtaining the hospital scans taken of Pierre-Paul. If he does need surgery, NFL Network reported Pierre-Paul could be looking at a five- to six-month recovery. But there is hope the injury would not impact his readiness for Week 1, according to the report.
The accident occurred, per the Athletic, at about 5 a.m. on Thursday along a stretch of Interstate 95 in Broward County in Florida. Pierre-Paul was taken to a South Florida hospital before being released the same day.
“As we stated last week following the news of Jason’s auto accident, our immediate concern was for both Jason and his passenger,” Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “While Jason was treated and released in South Florida the same day of the accident, we wanted to ensure that our medical team had an opportunity to perform a thorough evaluation here in Tampa, and that process is currently ongoing.”
If Pierre-Paul is out for an appreciable period of time this season, it would be a blow to a Tampa Bay defense, for which he notched 12.5 sacks last season. That unit is transitioning to a 3-4 base front under new coordinator Todd Bowles, but Pierre-Paul has been skipping voluntary offseason workouts.
Pierre-Paul severely injured his right hand in a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015, when he was with the New York Giants. He was able to have productive seasons in 2016 and 2017 before New York traded him last year to Tampa Bay.
After signing a four-year contract with the Giants in 2017, Pierre-Paul is set to make $14.9 million this season, but that payday could be in jeopardy if he gets placed on the non-football injury list. The Bucs have very little space under the salary cap, creating speculation that they might trade or release veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to give themselves some breathing room.
The possibility of a severe injury to Pierre-Paul might affect Tampa Bay’s calculations. A two-time Pro Bowler who was a first-round draft pick by the Giants in 2010, Pierre-Paul has 71 sacks in nine seasons, with 103 tackles for a loss and 14 forced fumbles.
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