I'll copy and paste my arguments from the below thread about Peppers so called "lack of heart" and "he takes plays off" BS lol. From Peppers himself, teammates, and coaches. And why he left the the Panthers after 2009... and shut you two clowns up
http://tisdelstirades.blogspot.com/2014/03/in-defense-of-julius-peppers-and-his.html In Defense of Julius Peppers and his Supposedly Inconstant Motor
Former Panthers and current Packers DL coach Mike Trgovac told ESPN Wisconsin this, two years ago:
There have been times during Peppers’ career when his effort level has been questioned, but Trgovac insisted that Peppers was never lazy during his time coaching him. “Everybody said that about Julius, and the more we researched it, the more it wasn't true,” Trgovac said. “You've got to be careful sometimes. Sometimes somebody will give a guy a label and it'll get spread around like it did with Julius, and it wasn't true. Julius works his [inappropriate/removed] off and has been a great player. So you have to be careful. Sometimes a bad rumor gets started about a kid and it just keeps going and multiplying. So you have to make the decision for yourself.”
Israel Idonije, Bears teammate, had this to say: "Just watch him; watch the guy practice,” Idonije said. “He gives everything, and works hard from the beginning of practice until the end. And he’s not just doing his own thing. He’s doing what the coaches have asked."
The Packers' Mike Daniels, after going through OTAs with Peppers, had this to say on 6/30:
"Julius is 34 years old, and he outruns everybody in practice. I guess what I learned from him is that you have to bring it every day because he’s a guy who definitely does. At 34, playing defensive end, flying around faster than some defensive backs, linebackers, receivers, running backs --- everybody. I definitely learn from that.” http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/bears/post/_/id/4669770/trgovac-nothing-wrong-with-peppers-motor
"He had it [the reputation] coming out of college," Trgovac said Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. "I always attribute it to [the fact] he's so smooth and natural. I was his position coach his rookie year, and he was rookie of the year by the way, and he only played 12 games. I did every [college] game on him because we had just been hired there in Carolina and Houston already said they were going to take quarterback David Carr, so we had to choose between Julius and Joey Harrington.
"People always talked about him taking plays off and doing this, but he's just so smooth and natural that he does things so easy that people think he's being lazy. But Julius plays hard. That reputation has always followed him, and maybe will always follow him for his whole career. I don't know, I hope not, because he is a really good guy. He commands a lot of attention. What was really impressive for us [in Carolina] was his work ethic in practice. He busts his butt in practice and I don't think the kid ever got enough credit for that." http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-03-08/sports/chi-chicago-bears-julius-peppers-mar08_1_mike-rucker-julius-peppers-john-fox
In Charlotte, N.C., they still talk about the back-to-back plays Julius Peppers made in a game in Denver in 2004.
On third-and-3, he pushed Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer out of bounds on a bootleg after a 2-yard gain. Then on fourth-and-1, he intercepted Plummer's pass and ran it back 97 yards.
That is how Peppers will be remembered by John Fox, the only NFL head coach Peppers has known.
"Pep's a heck of a player," Fox said Monday. "I knew he'd be a guy who would be one of the first to get signed. He hasn't had any injuries. He's clean as a whistle medically. I know he's 30, but he looks just like he did when he was 22."
Fox dispelled the notion that the Bears' new defensive end takes a lot of plays off. He said effort was not a problem for Peppers.
"He trains and works hard," Fox said. "He's a great kid. He's quiet, but he leads by example." http://espn.go.com/blog/chicagobears/post/_/id/4665348/peppers-relishes-his-fresh-start
While at Carolina, Peppers didn’t always receive such praise from teammates. Peppers’ critics -- who often spoke of a tendency for the defensive end to take plays off -- caused him to close out people and take a guarded stance toward dealing with the media.
Peppers said “it was definitely time” for his departure from Carolina back in March, “not only from that team, but from the state period. I was there for 30 years. That’s my home state; I love it. I still plan to live there after I retire, but you need a change of scenery sometimes. You need to get away.”
Now that he’s accomplished the change, Peppers wants to finally silence the critics. One NFL coach who worked with Peppers in Carolina, held the same beliefs about a perceived lack of effort from the defensive end.
“When we were evaluating before we got him, I thought that too. Then one of our coaches gave me tape from the  combine,” the coach said. “He said watch this one first; then watch Julius. I watched the first guy, he’s straining through this drill, grunting, making all kinds of faces. Right after that, Peppers comes up and goes through the same drill [the coach imitates an effortless run]. Smooth. You look at your watch, and Peppers just smoked the time [of the player in the first drill]. He just makes it look so easy sometimes it looks like he’s not trying.”
Peppers laughed at the story, before agreeing and adding his spin.
“You know, I think sometimes certain players – and I don’t name names – but certain players have a certain haircut, they have certain sack celebrations. They draw a lot of attention to themselves. That stuff can make it seem like you’re playing hard when really, you’re playing [about the same] as everybody else,” Peppers said. “You’re just bringing that extra attention to yourself. Just because I go about it mild mannered and I don’t do all of that stuff, maybe that’s something to talk about, too. If you hear [the criticism] from a coach that’s a different story. But I have yet to hear that from a coach. People who say it and watch the game don’t really understand my responsibilities on certain plays. If my play is not to run and chase the ball, if my play is to stay backside, then I’ve got to stay backside. I’ve got to be disciplined. I can’t run across the field and chase stuff that’s not mine. I can’t help that stuff comes easy sometimes; easier than somebody else. So I deal with it and hopefully, after this year, people won’t say that anymore.”
Still, critics will justifiably question whether the Bears paid too much for a player who could be entering the crossroads of his career. There’s also the legitimate concern that Peppers -- now that he’s received the big paycheck (he’ll make $40.5 million in the first three years) -- won't be motivated to play hard.
“That’s not my moral fiber, my character,” Peppers said. “I’m not above criticism. I can [take that] constructive[ly]; not saying that I believe it’s true. But if that’s something I have a chance to prove people wrong about, then I welcome that criticism. There’s pressure to perform. Being rewarded by this organization in that way only makes me want to play harder and repay them for what they did for me.”
Aside from the financial aspect of the situation, what the Bears did for Peppers, he said, was breathe new life into a career that had become stale.
Asked if he felt reborn with the Bears, Peppers started laughing almost uncontrollably.
“I guess you could call it that,” he said. “It’s definitely a change of scenery and a fresh start; a breath of fresh air to me. I’m happy, comfortable, and trying to stay that way for a long time.”
That could make for a lot of uncomfortable quarterbacks, for a long time as well. http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ys-peppersbears011411
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli approached the offseason evaluation of defensive end Julius Peppers with caution.
The second overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, Peppers was a five-time Pro Bowl selection who had racked up 25 sacks in the previous two seasons, yet, during the 2010 offseason, he was an unrestricted free agent.
“We did a lot of homework on him,” Smith said, “and everything came back the same.”
Despite his immense NFL success – 81 sacks in his first eight seasons – Peppers was dogged by questions that he wasn’t consistent and that he didn’t fulfill his potential. So Smith wanted to be comfortable that Peppers was going to be a cornerstone defender and not a free-agent disaster.
Smith sought the input of numerous people he trusted, including his friend Ron Meeks, the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010.
“ ‘One of the best guys you will have a chance to coach,’ ” Smith recalled one person telling him. “Everything was positive.”
Peppers was an exception, so the Bears made an exception. http://www.chicagobears.com/news/article-1/Peppers-driven-to-continually-improve/6c68178a-ab97-4162-b54e-8ad51adb8fd1
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is nicknamed "The Freak" because of his extremely rare combination of size and athleticism. But that's not the only key to his success.
In presenting a Brian Piccolo Award to the 6-7, 287-pounder Tuesday at Halas Hall, Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair lauded Peppers' work ethic and attention to detail.
"You see a guy that's one of the better football players that's ever played this game and each and every day in practice he's the first guy in line," Phair said.
"He works extremely hard and he's very coachable. In meetings, he's a guy that takes great notes. That's one of the things that you could take for granted: 'Hey, I'm a pro. I've been here. I know the system.' But he's taking notes like a rookie. That's very impressive."
Peppers' attention to detail stems from his desire to continually improve, something he's done throughout his career. Selected by the Carolina Panthers with the second pick in the 2002 draft, he has been voted to eight Pro Bowls, including three in as many years with the Bears.
"I always like to take notes because you never know it all," Peppers said. "Once you think you know it all, that's when you start falling off. It's always good to try to get a little better every day." https://archive.today/D3O19
About this time a year ago Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason was calling out teammate Julius Peppers publicly, raising an issue of Peppers perceived intensity.
Now he would be very, very happy if Peppers left any intensity back in Chicago when the Bears go to Charlotte to play Peppers former team.
I think Pep is going to go down as one of the best ever, Beason said. Truly a specimen and he's an addition to any football team, any defense. The difference is, now that I'm playing outside [linebacker], that things are more clear to me how important it is having a big dominant D-end.
Indeed you sometimes don't appreciate what you had til it's gone. So it is with Peppers and the Panthers from whom he's gone now after eight seasons in Carolina.
Beason, suffering through an 0-3 start then and an 0-4 one now, subsequently explained his comments about Peppers made to a Charlotte radio station. He has gained an even greater appreciation of what Peppers was facing week after week.
I was able to witness it first hand for three years the different schemes Pep had to deal with every Sunday as far as sliding offensive linemen his way and backs chipping in before they went out, Beason said.
It was tough on him but if you"re playing opposite him, you should definitely be excited about it because he will definitely command that attention. http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/with-packers-julius-peppers-ready-to-tackle-age-expectations-b99343838z1-273876991.html
From the shadow of Lawrence Taylor at North Carolina to the No. 2 overall selection in the 2002 draft to the Chicago Bears signing him at $84 million in 2010 to, now, Green Bay — with its 13 NFL titles — Hall of Fame-level hype has trailed Peppers his entire football life.
His blessing is his curse. There's no one this large, this athletic, this agile in the game.
The Packers needed bite. Needed Peppers.
So here he is, reaching out with a bear-paw handshake. He's easily the most physically imposing player to ever sit in this leather chair near the media auditorium at Lambeau Field. Through an extended conversation, those four- and five-word sound bites you hear in the locker room are replaced with introspective honesty from a pro entering the twilight of his career.
He is 34. He was banished by the Chicago Bears. But the pressure, again, stalks Peppers ... all the way to Seattle on Thursday night.
"Yeah, it's a lot. It's a lot on it," Peppers said. "The thing that has helped me with the expectations is just placing them on myself before anybody else could. Always striving to be better. But even when you don't live up to your own expectations — or somebody else's — it gets tough."
Guard down, Peppers' voice picks up.
"Just people, it's really tough when somebody says, 'Oh, well, he could have been the best of all-time, but he was lazy.' Or 'He could have had 15 sacks when he only had seven or eight.' Sometimes, I'm just like, 'Well, what could you have done? You go do it.'"
Without hearing "34," Peppers brings up "34." That's his age, the red flag that his career is about to reach a screeching halt.
Opponents gashed the Bears for 5.3 yards per carry in 2013, the NFL's worst run defense since 2006. Peppers lacked pop. He didn't have a sack in 12 of the 16 games. Scouts questioned his desire. The freak from Carolina was fading, so the Bears released Peppers and his $13.9 million salary.
Unprompted, Peppers steers this conversation a new direction.
"It wasn't, all of a sudden I turned 34. Or I turned 33, I was 33 last year at the time," Peppers said. "OK, I turned 33, all of a sudden I don't have it anymore? That's what people are going to say. That's what they said. That definitely wasn't it."
He understands that with enormous contract comes enormous responsibility. That's been the backdrop to his career.
"So if people want to blame me for everything that went wrong on defense last year," Peppers continued, "so be it. That's fine. It's somewhat of a responsibility to take the fall when things happen to the part of the team you're supposed to be the leader of."
What went wrong? Peppers points to "injuries, loss of key personnel, loss of key coaches." All of it compounded. Peppers said he never spoke to anyone in the Bears front office prior to the release. They moved quickly, quietly. He's not sure how coordinator Mel Tucker could have used him better. The 2013 was very frustrating, though.
Doubts built for the first time. And those doubts irritate Peppers.
He's no fan of the assumption that, at 6-6, 287, he should rag-doll tackles on demand.
"It's not as easy as people think it should be all the time," Peppers said. "So if I should go out every game and have one or two sacks, then what about the guys I'm playing against? Are they there to serve me and help me get whatever I'm supposed to get?
"I've done a good job of blocking it out. But if I actually listened to everything that everybody said about me, I'd be going crazy right now. It gets tough at times."
From Foster’s standpoint it is frustrating because, he says, Peppers has never been fully appreciated.
“He had God-given ability,” he said. “I just feel like no matter what he’s done, it’s never been enough. He could make the Pro Bowl, he could be All-American, he could be all-state, he could do whatever and it’s still ‘he should have done this’ and ‘he should have done that.’ I think he’s done a tremendous job of handling it the right way.”
When you’re this big, this athletic, criticism is natural.
Peppers does want to prove people wrong at 34. On a signed football for Foster’s son, he wrote “Still proving them wrong.”
“One of the best things he’s ever done is listen more than he’s talked,” Foster said. “I think sometimes people assume he doesn’t know what’s going on when he really does. I think he’s very aware of every situation he’s been in and always wants to prove himself. … That’s sort of what it’s been his whole career and I don’t understand that. If you talk to all of his teammates, I think they all appreciate his work ethic and what he does.”
Everyone in Green Bay from Mike Trgovac to Winston Moss to teammates has reiterated that Julius Peppers is not a talker. He’s not a vocal leader.
Hurney noticed this himself when he held the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. Peppers was one very soft-spoken prospect.
The athletic ability on the field was unquestioned. Back then, the question was if Peppers gave a consistent effort. He carried a very “quiet demeanor,” Hurney said. And that, he added, “can be misunderstood.”
To get to the bottom of it, the Panthers studied Peppers’ on-field…and on-court intensity.
Their evaluation process included a long look at Peppers’ college basketball footage at North Carolina.
“It showed the intensity there, as well,” Hurney said. “It wasn’t a lack of an intensity. Sometimes, it was an ability to just finish plays, which you see in a lot of college players. But you don’t find football players with that height, the measurables and the athletic ability to go with it. He’s such a fluid and smooth athlete that sometimes people watch and say, ‘Well, is he going hard?’ He’s just so fluid and so athletic and so big that he might not look like he’s going as fast as you think he is but he is.”
Hurney knew far in advance that the expansion Houston Texans would be taking David Carr. His choice included the likes of Joey Harringon, guard Mike Williams, Quentin Jammer and Peppers.
In his draft room, Hurney asked the question: “Can Peppers give us 10-12 sacks a year?” He wanted to build a team on defense with new coach John Fox. The answer was yes. He'd start with the pass rusher.
He was too big, too athletic, too potentially special to pass up. And Hurney came to the conclusion that Peppers was "as competitive as anybody."
They saw that much in his basketball tape. His slam dunks had pop.
Since Hurney is from Maryland, the Panthers' brass watched some of Peppers' basketball plays against the Terps.
“There was one slam dunk that he left his feet and it was just a ferocious slam dunk," Hurney said. "But there were several. Any time you watched him, he was an intense athlete, whether it was on the football field, the basketball court, wherever. You could see the competitiveness in him.”
And the more Hurney talked to Peppers — from the Combine to a visit to several discussions — the more that competitiveness came out, he said.
A knack for big plays
Green Bay won’t need Julius Peppers to be an every-down player. On Sunday, he played 30 snaps as a defensive end, 17 as an outside linebacker and led the Packers with 3 ½ pressures. Above all, Green Bay is counting on Peppers making the key play at the key moment, a trademark of that 2010 Super Bowl team.
“When you talk to him,” Hurney said, “he’s so soft spoken and he doesn’t say a ton. But what he says, means a lot. The easiest way to see it is to watch the tape — the big plays, the impact plays he makes. Go through his career, there are so many games he makes the impact play that decides the game or turns the momentum. He’s an impact player, he’s a playmaker that makes big plays at critical times.”
Many of Peppers' blocked kicks (13), sacks (118.5), interceptions (nine) and forced fumbles (39) came at the right time.
Hurney brings up one sack that actually knocked Arizona’s Kurt Warner out of the game in 2007. Peppers sacked Warner, forced the fumble and recovered the fumble.
This Packers defense has been missing timely turnovers since winning the title. One reason is the lack of a legitimate pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews.
Hurney remembers first imagining Peppers' playmaking potential during Peppers' 40-yard dash and three-cone drill at the NFL scouting combine.
“You looked at the clock and it was like, ‘Wow. That’s incredible for a guy that size,’" he said. "He’s just an incredible athlete. And again, he’s got incredible instincts to be in the right place at the right time. When you combine those two, it makes a terrific football player.
“He’s just a special athlete, who’s got that ‘it’ quality about him. He just has that special instinct that great athletes have.”
So now, he's chasing a ring in Green Bay. The defense as a whole is off to a rocky start. In time, Capers will be counting on Peppers delivering at critical moments --- much like Mike Daniels on Sunday.
Hurney, who’s now a sports radio host for ESPN-Charlotte, believes Peppers will excel at 34 years old because it’s a new challenge, a new team.
“He embraces that challenge,” Hurney said. “And that’s what I’ll say about him this year. I think that changing teams—going to the Packers—he challenges himself more than anybody. He has higher expectations for himself than anybody else does. So it doesn’t bother him what people say or what people expect from him because nobody can expect more from him than he does.” http://www.espnwisconsin.com/common/page.php?feed=2&id=17241&is_corp=1
“I told some of our younger players this: ‘Do you see how serious Julius takes his job?’ And they were all in agreement with that. And I said, ‘Let me just tell you something: From the day he walked into our facility in Carolina, he was very serious about his job,’” said Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who was Peppers’ position coach in 2002, Peppers’ rookie season with the Carolina Panthers, and his defensive coordinator from 2003 through 2008. “Not that he doesn’t have fun, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work with him.
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, he’s the type of guy that’s focused, thinking. He can joke around with the best of them, but he’s one of those guys that when he speaks, people really listen because he doesn’t speak that much.
“Guys understand the seriousness of [his] position, I mean, he was the second player picked in the draft. So he came in with such high expectations on him – and he delivered for us.”
Peppers’ critics would argue he didn’t deliver enough, however – in Carolina or in Chicago – and that he would be challenging the NFL record for career sacks if he put forth more effort over the past 12 years.
“’Doesn’t play hard, not emotional, not a leader.’ All that crap,” Peppers said, his smile evaporating. “But that’s not true. None of those things are true. That’s just how people perceive me – and that’s fine. I really couldn’t care less – really – how people view me.
“It used to bother me a little bit, when I was younger, when I was in Carolina. It used to bother me then. But now … sometimes, you can’t change people’s opinions or you can’t change thoughts. The people that know me, the people that I really want to respect me, they know. And those are the guys that are in here [in the locker room], and the coaches, and the front office, those type of people. As long as I have those people on my side, I’m content.”
Trgovac heard those same criticisms – dating back to Peppers’ college career at North Carolina. Before the Panthers took Peppers with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Trgovac watched every one of Peppers’ snaps with the Tar Heels. And he had an up-close look at Peppers throughout his time with the Panthers. While there may have been times when Peppers didn’t max out his effort level, it didn’t happen nearly as often as the perception.
“I think it’s two things. One, he is a very even-keeled guy, but he has a great desire,” Trgovac said with a measure of annoyance in his voice. “He’s not one of those guys that is a rah-rah guy. Some people just have that personality where, they make a play, they call attention to themselves, and he’s never been like that.
“Even in college, we heard about him not playing hard all the time, and I didn’t see that. And that’s the second thing. What I saw a guy that sometimes he’s just so damn smooth and runs so damn easy that he doesn’t look like he’s going full speed. But he’s moving.
“I think that gets a little bit of a knock on him at times. But we never had a problem. He was always a good leader for us there, he’s been a good leader for us here, and he’s a very positive person. He just doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low – but believe me, it means a lot to him. Deep down in his heart, it does mean a lot to him.”
Certainly this season has – even if it’s hard for outsiders to see it.
“It’s not that I’m not emotional, because on the field, I’m into the game. I’m there. I just don’t … it’s just not overt. I’m not out there flamboyantly celebrating and doing all this extra stuff,” Peppers said. “But I’m into it. Not very much can get me riled up, though. The only thing, pretty much, is lack of respect. That’s pretty much it.
“That’s my thing. I can’t play the game angry. There’s different personality types, and I’ve found when I get too up, too emotional, too riled up, it’s not a good thing. It’s energy wasted, and it’s not [productive]. I don’t play well in that mindset.”
Foster, who was less than thrilled with the way others in high school reacted to Peppers' quiet demeanor, recalled attending a basketball game in Chapel Hill when Peppers was a freshman.
"When he came to the scorer's table to come in the game, the fans just absolutely went crazy,'' Foster recalled. "That gave me cold chills because that (reaction) hasn't always been the case with Julius. People always have doubted him and never appreciated him. And it made me feel good everyone in that place was rooting for him instead of against him.''
Julius Peppers has already had a Hall-of-Fame career.
But, even as he sits fifth on the NFL's all-time sacks list, the Panthers' former No. 2 overall pick has taken his fair share of criticism over his career, especially from Carolina fans.
Panthers defensive line coach Eric Washington, who coached Peppers with the Chicago Bears, thinks the speculation couldn't be further from the truth.
The massive 6-foot-6 defensive end has been a perfect leader by example since returning to Carolina this offseason at the age of 37, according to Washington.
"He's embraced the entire process, going back to the offseason," Washington told WFNZ on Tuesday. "He sat in position meetings during the voluntary period. He sat in the first row and took notes like a first-year player. The notes were meticulous. He still asks great questions. He wants to get better. He wants to get as sharp as he possibly can. And he's doing a great job of leading by example when it comes to the young players."
Peppers, who's amassed 143.5 sacks over his NFL career, has also been accused of taking plays off by fans. Perhaps his supreme athleticism and dominant playmaking ability at times makes it look like that, but according to Washington, he's never gotten that sense from Peppers.
"I think with a talent like Julius, there are a lot of expectations, and sometimes, they create perception like that," Washington said. "My experience with Julius here and other places, is he plays extremely hard. He does exactly what you'll ask him to do. Our defense is built on effort. It's built on running to the football. He fits into that and his numbers speak for themselves."
Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers acknowledged Wednesday that he's being a more vocal leader this year and says the reason he didn't seem to instantly respond to owner Jerry Richardson's urging before the 2007 season was because veteran Mike Rucker was still with the team. Peppers said he had so much respect for Rucker that he felt he should defer to Rucker's leadership. Now, with Rucker retired, Peppers said he feels more free to let his leadership qualities show.
Here's how Peppers put it in Wednesday's locker-room interview:
"The thing about that is last year, you talk about Mr. Richardson calling me out and asking me to be a leader on this team, but then you don’t really realize that I’m here and Mike Rucker -- the guy who when I first game here, I hung on to, tried to learn from, respected him as much as you can respect anybody -- he’s still in the locker room next to me. I can’t really be myself around him and try to take over, if you want to call it the `Big Dog' role on the defense with him still here. I respect him that much. I don’t want to step on his toes and try to go over him.
"So, last year, I kind of fell back a little bit and let Ruck do his thing. Now, I feel like I’ve been here the longest and I feel like I can do it a little bit more."
On what he thought when he heard Julius Peppers was coming back: "We played six years together and we've been through some great times. We've been through a lot. And he helped me grow. I don't know if he really knew this - but with his ability and him getting double-teamed, I needed to make sure that his sacrifice in taking that on wasn't for nothing. So that elevated my game.
The constant talk of Julius Peppers taking plays off finally started to annoy Mike Rucker.
Before Rucker retired, he toed the defensive line as the Carolina Panthers' right defensive end along with Peppers, who played on the left side until Rucker's retirement in 2008. Rucker watched Peppers evolve into one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the league.
"People can write what they want and scouts can say this and that but when you talk to offensive coordinators, are they going to let him go one-on-one against your offensive tackle day in and day out? Rucker posed. "Nine out of 10 times with Julius, that's going to be, ‘No.'
"At end of the day, if a guy needs to be double-teamed, that's the most respect a player can get.''
With lofty expectations come scrutiny, as Peppers is well aware. He has heard the same criticism about a tendency to take plays off despite his 81 career sacks.
Peppers, of course, calls himself self-motivated but he will use any skepticism for more fuel as needed.
"I hear those things and if that's something I need to work on and correct, I will,'' Peppers said. "But I don't feel it's a problem. I never felt my effort was the problem.''
One NFL defensive coordinator whose team was not in the running for Peppers offered this assessment of the five-time Pro Bowl selection:
"Just look at the film from how he performed against the Vikings this past season. The guy can play and can be unstoppable. Sure, everybody takes plays off. But with his talent … sure, I'd want him on my team.''
"I had to want to get there," Peppers recalled. "And that's what made [the play] special to me. It wasn't just a ball getting knocked into your hands or something. It was just all-out effort or heart, or whatever. Nothing more."
Entering the fourth season of a career in which some of the few remaining critics still feel Peppers is just an athletically aberrant defender relying primarily on his freaky skills set, the former first-round choice has matured into a big-time effort player. Which cannot be good news for opposition right offensive tackles around the league.
On his right hand, just below the wrist, Peppers has a tattoo that reads "Discipline." There is a matching tattoo, "Dedication," on the left hand. Time was when Peppers sometimes had to glance at those two reminders to get himself jump-started, but no more.
"In this league, you don't make the kinds of plays he does or get 10 or more sacks every year just on talent alone," said Panthers weak-side linebacker Will Witherspoon. "Every player in the league is good, some obviously better than others, but we're all skilled. But when you put talent and effort together like [Peppers] is, man, watch out."
"Remember what people said when we drafted him?" Fox said. "There was a lot of that, 'Well, he's a great athlete, but he's not a great football player.' Well, yeah, he is a great athlete. You know how good you have to be to play, and we're talking about playing meaningful minutes, for the North Carolina basketball team? C'mon. Are you kidding me? But now he's a great player. No, he's a star, really. And I'll tell you what: He is the lowest-maintenance star I've ever been around. He doesn't ask for anything special. He doesn't want you to treat him different than anyone else. It's almost as if he doesn't understand yet just how good he is."
"Every day it's a process," Peppers said. "You never get to the point where you feel like you're the best or you can't get any better. Every day you come out and try to put the work in and try to get better than you were the day before. It's a cliche but it's really real. That's just the maturation of a player. You come out and find something to get better on and do it until you can't do it anymore."An accomplished player with that type of attitude provides an ideal example for his teammates. "He's a role model for the younger guys, for guys like me and for the veterans who just go out there and see him working," said defensive tackle Henry Melton. "He doesn't take a day off unless the coach makes him take a day off."First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman has an equally high opinion of Peppers. "It's so impressive it's hard to describe," Trestman said. "The way he carries himself around the locker room through the meetings and certainly on the field, and watching him since April, it's just impressive, the consistent high level of effort. He's all over the field. He's first in line. We all want to grow up and be like Julius. Quite frankly, that's the kind of a man I think of him as."
There was a whole lot of chatter going around the NFL draft in 2002, as there so often is.
And along with Julius Peppers, the Panthers were caught right in the middle of perhaps the greatest debate going.
Holding the No. 2 overall pick, behind only the Houston Texans' expansion franchise, the Panthers were coming off a 1-15 season and appeared to have needs in virtually every area.
Should they use it to take Peppers, a defensive end out of North Carolina whom some openly questioned took plays off in college? Should they grab a quarterback in Joey Harrington from Oregon? Should they go for someone else at another position? Or should they consider trading the pick to turn it into multiple choices, since they had so many positions that needed shoring up?
Making the issue even more complex, at least for outsiders looking in, was the fact that it was the first Carolina draft with Marty Hurney in position as general manager and with John Fox as the new head coach. How would they work together?
At the center of it all, though, was Peppers.
Hurney says now that he heard all the critics who were questioning whether the Panthers should use the pick on the 6-foot-6, 283-pound defensive end. Peppers took plays off at North Carolina, some said. He was more of a basketball player than a football player, others said, noting that he had the frame of a hoops player and had played the sport well at UNC.
"You get so caught up in your process and what you think, you know you can't listen to all that stuff," Hurney said. "But if you remember back then, there were not a lot of people who thought we should have taken Julius Peppers with the second pick. I remember some people saying, ‘You took a basketball player?' There was somebody on TV who said we only picked him because he was a local guy and we were trying to sell tickets.
"All that stuff is out there, and you hear it. But you can't listen to it and you know that – because you know the draft is an inexact science. And whether it's the second pick in the draft or the second-to-last pick in the seventh round, you have to rely on your scouts, your opinions, your evaluations, your investigations. And then you do what you think is best for your organization."
What was being said most about Peppers was that he didn't always give it his best effort on every play. That kind of talk can shatter a player's draft status.
"Yeah, we heard it, too – that he didn't play all the time. But we did a lot of research on that. We even brought in a basketball tape and looked at that," Hurney said. "And John brought him in and said, ‘Listen, you play hard. It's not that. It's learning how to finish some plays here and there.'
"When we brought in the basketball tape, it showed what intensity he had there. We watched that tape, and he was a difference-maker. He had special athletic ability. I just think he looked so smooth in his movements that people mistook that for lack of effort – and that wasn't the case."
Hurney did want to make one point clear, however.
"We didn't draft him because of what we saw on the basketball tape. We drafted him because of what we saw on the football tapes," Hurney said. "But the basketball tape was just an example of the extent that you go to when you're investigating a kid like that.
"The question for me, and I remember asking it of all our guys to this day, was, ‘Is this a guy who will have double-digit sacks every year?' And to a man everybody said, ‘Of course.' Julius was an impact player at an impact position. Defensive end is arguably the most impactful position on defense, other than maybe middle linebacker and a sit-down press cornerback."
Peppers is 37, and to look at him now is to wonder how a human being can block him. So far this season, a human being can’t. A part-time player, Peppers ranks fifth in the league with 4 1/2 sacks. In Carolina’s 33-30 victory Sunday against New England, Peppers spent so much time in the Patriots’ backfield it was as if he’d been invited.
The season is his 16th in the NFL, and in nine seasons he has sacked quarterbacks at least 10 times. Some of us, many of us, most of us, used to wonder if he gave what he had on every play.
But could you assemble a resume such as his if you didn’t? Because of his height, weight and speed, Peppers looks as if he was designed to play defensive end, and therefore getting to the quarterback should be easy. It’s not. It’s not easy for anybody. For Peppers, it only looks that way.
Someday somebody probably will write his biography. There won’t be many quotes.
If you really want to know who he is, watch him on Sunday afternoons.
No plays off
Peppers left North Carolina as a two-sport star before the 2002 draft, when the expansion Houston Texans had the first pick. After the Texans took Carr, the Fresno State quarterback, No. 1, the Panthers followed by grabbing Peppers.
The Lions snagged a quarterback with the third pick by taking Joey Harrington, who was still playing behind Mike McMahon when Detroit came to Charlotte in Week 2 that season.
McMahon, who had played at Rutgers, remembers hearing the Lions scouts saying they wouldn’t have been interested in Peppers because they thought he took plays off for the Tar Heels.
But on the Lions’ first possession, Peppers broke through the line and wrapped up McMahon for his first career sack. McMahon doesn’t remember Peppers’ first two sacks that day, but he hasn’t forgotten Peppers’ third one – though his recall immediately after that play was cloudy.
McMahon was flushed from the pocket on the final play of the first half. He moved to his left and was trying to find a receiver when he was blasted from behind and lost the ball.
McMahon didn’t realize until later it was Peppers, who had come from the opposite side of the field and leveled him.
“He hit me and I remember going parallel to the ground. The ball goes flying. I fumble the ball. I don’t even know who recovered it (the Panthers’ Reggie Howard did),” McMahon said. “I think by the time it was recovered or picked up, the clock had run out.”
McMahon, who had blacked out briefly, was still laying on the grass as both teams headed toward the tunnels for halftime. Because this was years before the NFL had a concussion protocol, McMahon finished the game – a 31-7 Panthers victory.
Afterward, he sought out a couple of the Lions’ personnel guys.
“I remember after that game going, ‘Well, do you guys like him now because I don’t think he took any plays off,’” McMahon said.
In his second career game, Peppers had put together the first of nine three-sack days.
“He’s been here just about every day throughout the offseason. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s not a guy that’s constantly talking. As a coach, you talk about how you want leaders by example, and that’s exactly what he does.
"He works as hard as anyone on our football team, and he moved into a leadership role fairly quick.”
That leadership role was evident earlier Monday when Bears teammates and coaches voted Peppers a defensive co-captain along with star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Angelo said that while it was evident Peppers was a great player, the Bears did an inordinate amount of research on him as a person—and didn’t discover any red flags or even minor concerns.
“I always kid with our scouts in personnel that we’re always looking for the dirt so-to-speak, but we never really found any real dirt with Julius,” Angelo said. “Everything that we heard was very positive. The player was easy to figure out, but the person was what we really wanted to evaluate as well and we got tremendous reports on him. What you’ve seen—him being voted a team captain—is reflective of all the things that we heard.”
“He’s a tremendous player,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “The thing I really appreciate is since the day he’s got here in terms of all our offseason work, he’s been a leader in terms of effort, tempo and fundamentals.
"Everything we’ve asked him to do is full speed and fast. He’s talented, there’s no doubt about it. But the other thing he brings to our defense is leadership, and it doesn’t always have to be verbal.”
Peppers has been participating in the Bears’ voluntary offseason program since it began March 29.
“We start judging a player once they get here and he has been nothing but the best since Day 1,” said coach Lovie Smith. “He’s worked hard, hasn’t missed hardly anything. He’s a good player.
“You get in a leadership role by what you do on the football field. Players aren’t interested in what you’re saying a whole lot. They know about his history a little bit, but he’s worked hard every day. And then to have a chance to see him out here in more of a team environment, we’re excited about what he’s going to do for us this year.”
Peppers has already made an impact on his new teammates.
“Peppers is a guy that works hard,” said defensive tackle Tommie Harris. “I mean, he practices extremely hard and plays that way. I’ve heard that a lot about guys like [Patrick] Kerney and all those other great defensive ends, Jared Allen, that practice real hard. But I never really saw it in a Pro Bowl defensive end. [Peppers] goes 110 percent every practice. You can tell why he’s the best.”
Peppers lined up at both defensive end spots during minicamp.
"He is really good left-handed and right-handed," Marinelli said. "I’ve never been around a guy who can do that."
“(Consistency) is important, because that says a lot about you,” he said. “Not only in your profession, but in your personal life. You try to stay consistent with everything you do. I continue to come to work and I don’t think I’m bigger than the game, or bigger than being coached.
“I come in every day with the work ethic of trying to get better. And it’s not all me. It’s (defensive line coach) Eric (Washington), it’s the rest of the defensive line. We’re all doing this together. I’m the beneficiary sometimes, but this is a group effort.”
Peppers had an undisclosed illness before the 2007 season started and lost weight. He also missed the last two games of the 2007 season because of a knee injury. But it's not like Peppers didn't have an impact at all in 2007, he still recorded 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 5 passes defensed, and 2 blocked kicks. Regardless though, he had one bad season in his entire career man, MANY great players have had a down season or two throughout their careers. Peppers has been a model of consistency throughout his career, with a half more sack this season he'll have accomplished recording at least 7 sacks in 15 seasons, the only other player with 15 seasons with at least 7 sacks is the NFL career sacks leader Bruce Smith. If Peppers gets to double digit sacks with 10, he'll be tied for third most seasons with double digit sacks and tie Kevin Greene with 10 total seasons matching that criteria. Reggie White had 12 seasons and Bruce Smith had 13 double digit sack seasons. If Peppers really never "tried hard" or "took lots of plays off" he never would have accomplished what he's accomplished in his career. Appreciate him for what he is, one of the greatest players to ever grace an NFL field.
Kevin Greene had a 3 sack season, Chris Doleman had a 0.5 and a 3 sack season, Michael Strahan had a 1, a 4.5, and a 5 sack season amongst other low sack seasons, Jason Taylor had a 2.5 sack and a 3.5 sack season, DeMarcus Ware had a 4, and a 6 sack season, Jared Allen had a 2 sack season, Dwight Freeney had a 5.5 sack season in his prime, amongst other bad seasons, Terrell Suggs had a 4.5 sack season his prime, etc. Etc. I could keep going but you get the point I hope.