Athletes can’t afford to play with fire

Jason Pierre-Paul became the highest-drafted USF player in program history when he was taken 15th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS.COM

Jason Pierre-Paul exploded onto the NFL scene in 2011 with the New York Giants, making his first Pro Bowl and cementing himself as a leader on the defensive line, but his career was put in serious jeopardy Saturday due to a fireworks accident. 

Since coming out of USF in 2010, Pierre-Paul has played four seasons with the Giants and was due for the first big payday of his career, as he’s set to earn nearly $15 million after earning less than a combined $6 million in his first four seasons.

But his status and future with the team is now dependent on whether he can get his hands ready for the NFL season. Reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter late Wednesday, Pierre-Paul was severely burned and had one of his fingers amputated.

Pierre-Paul should consider himself lucky, all things considered. The star defensive end’s injury came at a poor time for negotiations, but his career and more importantly, his body, are still intact for the most part. 

The Giants have already pulled their long-term offer to Pierre-Paul of $60 million and his salary for this season could be withheld if he’s placed on the NFL’s non-football injury list.

ESPN.com has reported that doctors have said the injury shouldn’t be career threatening and he should be able to play this season, but this isn’t the case for Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback C.J. Wilson. 

Wilson, 25, is entering the third year of his NFL career and is set to make $585,000 after earning $495,000 last season. 

There are minimal reports out regarding the extent of his injury, but the Lincoln Times-News reported Wilson lost two fingers in the incident. 

 “We are aware that C.J. was involved in an accident that occurred over the July 4th holiday,” the Buccaneers said in a statement. “It is our understanding that the injury occurred to one of his hands, and our primary concern at this moment is for his long-term health. We have been in contact with C.J. and are continuing to monitor the situation.”

While the team is undoubtedly worried about Wilson’s health, he most likely won’t maintain his spot on the roster when he checks out of the hospital. 

But Wilson and Pierre-Paul knew the sacrifices they were making when they signed their NFL contracts.

Playing on football’s biggest stage for exorbitant amounts of money is something players are taking for granted. 

Wilson will likely have to prematurely end his NFL career and thus, his best chance at fortune and fame. 

On the other hand, Pierre-Paul likely won’t have to worry about his future in the league, but that wouldn’t have been the case if this injury had occurred when he played for USF.

If professional players like Wilson severely lack leverage in a situation like this, it’s not hard to imagine how quickly a collegiate athlete would be dismissed from their team for a stunt as foolish as this.

Any player is one injury away from ending their career and that’s something athletes — especially at the collegiate level — need to take heed from Pierre-Paul and Wilson. 

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