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Saca312

Julius Peppers - An Old Geezer Who's Got A Lot Left In The Tank; The Carolina Reaper's Comeback Tour

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Julius Peppers. Number 90.

Just saying that name ignites waves of nostalgia throughout the Panther fan-base of one of the greatest Panthers to ever wear the uniform. Picked at #2 overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, Julius Peppers was one of the sport's greatest athletic freaks. Measuring at 6'7", 290 lbs, he played like he was 250 lbs with speed and athleticism unlike any other. His mere presence on the field sent shock-waves of fear throughout NFC South QBs, understanding they were about to face one of the best talents in the NFL.

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Q: Do you adjust the clock when you go against Julius Peppers?

Drew Brees: "You feel it. There’s times when he’s on you faster than you anticipate and there’s times where we’re getting him blocked. You just try to feel those guys, feel where they are. Every play is different. I can’t tell you this play I know I’m going to have three or four seconds to throw. You never know [with Julius Peppers].

Peppers would have a very productive and monstrous stretch with the Panthers. From 2002-2009, Julius Peppers would only have 2 seasons below double-digit sacks, with one of those years being due to him being placed on IR with a knee injury. His play would elevate him to one of the most recognized Panthers of all time, with his jersey being iconic for the franchise.

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However, the 2009 off-season did not treat Peppers well. Marty Hurney - GM for the Panthers well-known for his outrageously overpriced contracts - would be unable to retain one of the most important Panthers on the roster. Peppers would not take the situation well at all, and made sure he let his disdain known. He felt the Panthers were insincere with their approach to getting a long-term deal done, and felt the silence from the Panthers was offending.

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In an interview that aired Tuesday morning on Charlotte radio station WFNZ-AM, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end indicated he's irritated by the team's "silence" and has changed his stance on whether he wants to continue his career in Carolina.

"Last year, at the time, that was the option that I wanted most," Peppers said. "Now it's not."

General manager Marty Hurney didn't immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

"How can you say you want to be somewhere when you're not really sure if they want you there because they're not even talking to you?" Peppers said.

"That deal was to make me the highest-paid defensive player, but slightly, very slightly," Peppers said. "I didn't really feel the sincerity behind that deal."

Peppers would go on to play with the Chicago Bears for four years, then the Green Bay Packers for another three. In those years, he would have multiple double-digit sacks, never going below 7 sacks in total. He would play as an Outside Linebacker in those stints - something Peppers wanted to do when he was free from Carolina. He would remain largely injury free and looking ageless on the field, terrorizing QBs as if he were 23. 

Finally, 2017 came. Julius Peppers would become a free agent, and a notable opportunity popped up. DE Charles Johnson - unofficial Panthers GM - would strike right at Peppers and attempt to reel him back in. The Panthers front office has changed dramatically, with a new GM who Julius Peppers could repair relations with. Peppers would take the opportunity and come back home with a smile.

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With old feelings aside, Julius Peppers signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hoping to rebuild his relationship with Charlotte, Peppers came back with the goal of simply earning back the love of the Panther fan-base. Coming back on a homecoming tour of sorts, the Panthers look prime and ready to achieve great things in 2017, with Julius Peppers being a huge part of the effort.

"An Ageless Wonder"

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Year after year passed. Season after season, Julius Peppers stood strong. Age never seemed to affect him much, producing year after year and yielding results. Currently, Julius Peppers is at the ripe old age of 37 years old - not exactly young in NFL terms. Nevertheless, Peppers has overcome the odds and produced quality seasons, having only one season below 7 sacks during his injured year in Carolina.

See his season stats for yourself:

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A small crop of the media subdued the impact of Julius Pepper's return, citing his age being a factor. They believe Julius Peppers is done; his career finished. They simply can't comprehend Julius Peppers still making an impact at such an old age. 

Julius Pepper's has something to say about the naysayers.

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“I don’t know what the perception is,” Peppers said. “I’m the same player that I’ve been.”

Panthers DL Coach Eric Washington agrees. He does not see age limiting Julius Peppers in any way in terms of production or impact. In fact, Washington doesn't see much of a change from when he last saw him seven years ago.

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“Julius looks like he did seven years ago when I had the first opportunity to coach him,” Washington said this week on the Panthers Podcast. “He still looks like he's a dynamic player. The combination of his size and the ability to move - I don't see a lot that's changed with him. He's aged extremely well.”

It's well to note Washington does not give this kind of praise lightly. It's no fluff piece. When he says something, it's usually something you can take for fact. Washington does not see any signs of Julius Peppers slowing down.

Julius Peppers is the epitome of one of the NFL's most ageless wonders. No matter the age, it appears father-time can't get quite the large hold on Peppers. 

Producing Sacks Even At His Old Age

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The Carolina Panthers did not bring in Julius Peppers just to let him sit on the bench and rot. They brought him in to produce and get sacks. The contract the Panthers gave Peppers has plenty of sack-incentive rewards, which shows they expect Julius Peppers to hit the ground running.

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Julius Peppers’ one-year deal with the Panthers is worth $3.5 million, with sacks incentives that could push it to $4.25 million, according to a league source.

Peppers, who signed his contract Saturday, will collect an additional $250,000 if he finishes with seven sacks. The bonus increases to $500,000 for nine sacks, and Peppers will receive $750,000 if he reaches eleven sacks.

Once again, Julius Peppers produces even with age. PFF recently released a chart showing Julius Peppers throughout the years, and while the tail-end of his career shows a slight decline in average, you still can't deny Julius Peppers is still a force.

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In fact, 2016 was one of his better seasons with Green Bay with some arguing 2015 was better. Even when age should've caught up with Peppers by now and show a steady decline in ability, the graph shows that Peppers actually got better. 

Julius Peppers' 2016 season is not something to look down upon. The Packers put him in a more limited role in snap counts, but they did not expect him to be sitting doing nothing. Peppers would help repay their efforts by exerting quality play on the field.

Peppers would begin the season with a 1.5 sack performance against the Vikings. Showing his ability of getting after the QB, Peppers would help crumble their weak offensive line and get the sacks he needed. Showing his athleticism and intelligence, Peppers would pressure the QB and target him when the opportunity presented itself.

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Peppers jumped off to a fine start. He would pressure QBs and impact plays like he normally does. He is a fine technician as a pass rusher, and that has not changed one bit. His overwhelming weight and power pushes back offensive linemen like they weigh nothing.

Against the Cowboys, Julius Peppers would face his first true test. Arguably the best o-line in the NFL, the Cowboys offense employed a juggernaut; a near impenetrable wall of meat that gives any defensive coordinator headaches.

Peppers would rise up to the challenge and produce. Julius would rush right by stout RT Doug Free and slam right into Dak Prescott, forcing a fumble recovered by the Packers. A monstrous and speedy play.

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Nothing easy of the sort against any guy from the Cowboy's o-line unit.  He would contribute and impact the game in plenty of ways, and helped the Cowboys defensive unit in any way possible.

He wouldn't stop there. Later, the Packers would face the Falcons, and Peppers would not disappoint. Lining up against the Falcons RG in a mismatch situation, Peppers would take advantage of the situation. On the inside, Peppers would come in and eradicate Matt Ryan's attempt to scramble. Peppers would slam Ryan right to the ground where he belongs.

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Sure, Julius Peppers may not have had the most eyebrow raising start, especially considering he was still getting used to the Packers new system of employing him in certain situations. Rather than being an all game DE, the Packers employed him more as a pass rush specialist in a reserved role.

Peppers still didn't really enjoy his start, even though he achieved 3.5 sacks. Peppers felt he was leaving a lot on the field, and he could've done far more. Rather than being a force Peppers expected himself to be, he felt he was focused on getting used to how he was being utilized more than being able to focus on the game. After all, Peppers had an average of 28.9 snaps per game, which is considerably lower than his first two years at Green Bay (2014: 48.5 snaps; 2015: 41.8 snaps).

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"Yeah, I would like to play a little more, but I understand my role on this team. I want to try to execute my role to help the team in the best way possible.”

“We still are trying to figure it out, in my opinion -- how much to play, how much not to play, when to play and those type of things,” Peppers said. "It’s much tougher to be an effective pass-rusher when I don't have an entire game to set up an offensive linemen with a variety of moves. If the opportunities are a little limited, then you’ve got to try to find a way to make something happen the best way you can."

“Hopefully soon here, we’ll get it mapped out, and we’ll have it set to how we’re going to move forward.”

 

Peppers would soon get his wish, as he would begin a stretch of back to back sack games in the later season.

The Redskins would be well known in 2016 to have a pretty stout offensive line. With Kirk Cousins known for getting out the road in decent time and solid guys up front, the Redskins had a pretty strong offense. This was not going to be an easy task for anyone; even Julius Peppers.

Even so, Julius Peppers would emerge. Going against RT Morgan Moses, Peppers would be an impact player in the game. He would get the leverage against Moses and go right after Cousins for an easy sack. 

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In the following game, Peppers would continue his hot streak of getting sacks. Against the Wentz led offense of the Eagles, Peppers would in and provide pressure to the young rookie. Even with the tackle holding Peppers, he still was able to break free and push Wentz to the ground.

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Not an easy feat for anyone to do. This is the type of stuff you'd expect to see from HoF caliber DEs in the NFL, no matter the age. Being able to push and power through the odds to get right to the prize.

In the next game, Peppers would come off with another sack and solid production. In the frigid cold and snow that enveloped the field, the Packers would come in and give the Texans a game. Peppers will grab himself another sack to extend his back to back sack games to three total, pinning Osweiler to the ground.

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Against the Bears, Peppers would once again show up and produce. He comes blazing off the edge, snatching the ball right off the QB's hands for a strip sack fumble. Beating the tackle who challenged him, Peppers would come in and get himself a football.

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Finally, Peppers would show up where it mattered most - the Playoffs. When the bright lights shone right on the Packers in the big moment, Peppers would come in and produce. Against the Giants, Peppers achieved a sack. Lining up on the right side, Peppers would come in and beat his tackle, smacking down Manning when he attempted a scramble towards him.

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This play would cap off a very productive season from the 36 year old veteran, whose play seemed to defy the odds of age itself. Peppers would comment on his sack against the Giants, and how pivotal it seemed.

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"Sometimes you've got to just dig down deep and be accountable for the role that you have on the team," Peppers said after the game. "I thought that was a timely [sack] that I came up with. I thought it was a big shift in momentum."

Peppers would finish off his 2016 season with 8.5 total sacks counting the postseason. Just 1 sack away from Panther's DE Mario Addison's sack total, Julius Peppers would've been by far the 2nd best sack specialist on the Panthers defense. His production speaks for itself, and age doesn't seem to be able to touch Peppers much at all.

The Packers knew this very well and how special Peppers truly is. His play at such an old age is not normal, and the effort he puts in the game is unlike any other. McCarthy and Hyde all had glowing words when speaking of Julius.

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"I can't recall someone, particularly at that position, that played the way he's playing [at Peppers' age]," McCarthy said. "He's a huge asset to our football team. I can't say enough about Julius Peppers."

"Peppers is a freak, man," Packers defensive back Micah Hyde said. "He's like 45 years old, and he's still doing what he has to do. We see it every day in practice. He's a freak. That's plain and simple."

The Future, And The Carolina Reaper's Comeback Tour

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Julius Peppers always wanted to return to the Panthers after some point in his career. To end right where his career started and where most of his life was wrapped around was a dream come true for the HoF Caliber Panther great. 

First thing that Peppers wanted to achieve was rebuilding that relationship with the Panthers fan-base. He knew the way he left made many fans bitter, and his tactics of showing his distaste led many to call him a traitor against the organization. Even so, Peppers wants to leave all that behind and plead with Panther fans his case, and earn their respect back.

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“I always wanted to come back and repair the relationships and build that bridge back, not only with the team but with the fans, the people,” 

“That’s what this game is about, it’s about relationships. That was the most important thing for me to come back and tie up these loose ends and give the fans and everybody another chance to see me wear this uniform again.”

Peppers felt he's learned a lot in his time out of Carolina and grown as a person. In his interview, the notable change in poise and confidence greatly differs with his shy, uncomfortable demeanor when talking to the press when he left Carolina. 

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“The growth as a person was important for me,” explained Peppers, a North Carolina native. “Going away and seeing something different, having that experience made me realize that home is where the heart is. That’s what led to my motivation of wanting to come back, missing this place so much.”

Julius Peppers comes back knowing he probably won't be able to achieve the greatness of his prime on the Panthers, as age will always win out in the end. His role will be limited due to such, but already coming from Green Bay experiencing what it's like to have less snaps, Peppers should be more than ready to make the most of those opportunities he's given. 

When asked about his role, Pepper's smiled. He already knew what his purpose was going to be with the Panthers when he signed the contract, and he was ready for the challenge.

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“My role is to come in and offer some leadership, offer some experience and still be able to produce in certain situations,” Peppers said. “I think it’s the perfect fit, not only for me but for the team as well.”

He knows this role will only help to squeeze out a few extra years out of his career, and help him remain a high quality pass rusher. With other stout pass rushers coming around him, Peppers game should only trend and continue upwards. Returning back in his 4-3 DE role, Peppers should fit in nicely and produce well.

With new rookie Daeshon Hall coming in, Peppers will also be expected to mentor Hall and help him ease into the NFL. His impact from a veteran standpoint will be huge; much like a better version of Jared Allen in a way. Helping those around him get better with his experience and growth is something Peppers should be able to live up to.

Julius Peppers did not come in to sit on the bench. Gettleman signed Peppers expecting him to impact the team in a major way. The 37 year old Carolina Reaper is in no ways done quite yet. Don't ignore what Peppers has done recently and in the past. He will be back, giving NFC South quarterbacks nightmares once more.

Bet on it.

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Don't care what the other 31 SAY, there were some sunken hearts and streaked underwear when he re-signed here.  Believe it.

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45 minutes ago, Hoenheim said:

Wonder if he'll play more than one season 

Honestly feel like he could. He hasn't had a huge noticable decline yet.

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19 minutes ago, Saca312 said:

Honestly feel like he could. He hasn't had a huge noticable decline yet.

Yeah I feel like he has a lot left in the tank. 

The best part is- he ain't going nowhere now. He will stay in Carolina as long as we will have him. 

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Is there also an incentive in there for making Matt Ryan soil himself?

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1 minute ago, mjligon said:

Yeah I feel like he has a lot left in the tank. 

The best part is- he ain't going nowhere now. He will stay in Carolina as long as we will have him. 

So what you are saying is that we couldn't possibly be that stupid...twice?  I hope you are correct.  

Julius and Zo have got to be two of the most asinine front office moves in the history of one city.  Would have been great if Mourning could have done what Julius is about to do.

Lock up your women and children, this is gonna be good.

 

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fantastic write-up! i love these.

from one writer to another though... tenseless modals are much better when narrated vocally. reading all those woulds gets a little tedious ;)

next do one about mike adams. i'm curious as to what sort of expectations are reasonable for him

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