Peppers: Panthers tried to make me look bad
Julius Peppers described his offseason departure from Carolina
as ”a little sour” on Wednesday, claiming the Panthers tried to
paint him in a bad light after deciding to let him leave in free
In a conference call with reporters ahead of Peppers’ return to
Charlotte on Sunday with the Chicago Bears, the five-time Pro Bowl
defensive end said he was under the impression the Panthers decided
to ”do away with anybody who is making a significant amount of
money” as part of a roster overhaul that’s produced the NFL’s
”That’s a business decision. I can understand and respect
that,” the 30-year-old Peppers said. ”The problem that I had was
they tried to turn the tables and make it look like I wanted out no
matter what. Really, I didn’t have the option to stay. It was never
offered to stay.”
”So when I say it ended a little sour, I felt like it could
have been a little more respectful. At least a phone call to say,
‘It’s been good. We’re going in a different direction. We’re going
to let you go.’ They couldn’t even give me that.”
Peppers also disputed Panthers general manager Marty Hurney’s
earlier claims that they twice tried to make him the NFL’s
highest-paid defensive player. Peppers said that happened only
once, after the 2007 season, a deal he rejected.
Hurney didn’t return a message seeking comment, releasing only a
short statement that didn’t address Peppers’ criticism.
”Julius gave us eight great years and we appreciate everything
he did for us,” Hurney said.
The Panthers and Peppers were locked in a lengthy contract
dispute that included his pleas to allow him to leave in free
agency after the 2008 season The Panthers refused and used the
restrictive franchise tag, requiring a mammoth one-year deal that
paid Peppers $18.2 million last season.
The Panthers could have used the franchise tag again this
season, but at the cost of at least $20.1 million. The Panthers
declined and let the 6-foot-7 Peppers, the franchise’s career
leader with 81 sacks, leave without compensation.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft signed a
six-year, $91.5 million deal with the Bears in March. While he said
he’s happy in Chicago – he has two sacks, two forced fumbles and a
blocked field goal for the Bears (3-1) – he’s puzzled with how
things ended in Charlotte.
”I was kind of surprised because I was expecting to hear
something from them,” Peppers said. ”I didn’t understand what was
going on. But as the weeks and the months went by, I started
getting the picture of the direction they were going in and I knew
I wasn’t a part of it.”
Now Peppers, a Bailey, N.C., native who starred in college in
North Carolina, will return home to play the struggling Panthers
(0-4) for the first time on Sunday. After the two years of rocky
contract negotiations, Peppers said he has ”no idea” how he’ll be
received by fans.
But Peppers was clearly frustrated at the perception he doesn’t
play hard on every down. The reputation has stuck with him since
college and was fueled by games in Carolina in which the freakishly
athletic Peppers had little impact.
”I just see that as people not being able to form an opinion
for themselves,” Peppers said. ”People will hear one thing and
just run with it. … A couple people started saying it for
whatever reason, and then it followed me. And then people just kept
repeating it, even though it wasn’t true.”
Peppers, who also ranks first in Carolina history with 29 forced
fumbles and nine blocked kicks, is proud of his time with Carolina
despite the criticism and messy ending.
”Look at a guy like Dwight Freeney, who had (84) sacks or
whatever it was in eight seasons. I’m right there behind him at
81,” Peppers said. ”If people look at the numbers and stop just
making up stuff about how I played, you’ll realize I’ve done well
and really I think I exceeded expectations when I was brought to
Notes: Panthers WR Steve Smith was on crutches in the locker
room after missing practice with a high ankle sprain. Smith is
expected to miss at least one game. … S Sherrod Martin
(concussion) sat out practice, but is holding out hope he’ll be
cleared to play Sunday. … RB DeAngelo Williams (illness) and RT
Jeff Otah (knee) didn’t practice, while LB Jamar Williams (neck)
was limited. … The first court appearance for Dwayne Jarrett, cut
on Tuesday after he was charged with driving while impaired, was
postponed from Wednesday to Nov. 12.