Just in case there was any thought of a type of farewell tour for Julius Peppers as he returns to the Carolina Panthers this season, the team that drafted him, don’t bet on it. Peppers, 37, might not be playing in his final season either.
“We haven’t really talked about that,” Peppers told WFNZ-AM radio on Wednesday, via The Charlotte Observer.
“I can say this: It’s not one of those situations where I’m coming back for a farewell tour. I’m coming back to play, and I’m coming back to try to make some things happen. So my expectation is to be out there and be productive.”
Peppers who is coming off a solid run with the Green Bay Packers which saw him rack up 18 sacks and four forced fumbles in two seasons, is considering playing at 38.
“Well, right now, I’m taking it one year at a time,” Peppers said. “At the end of the year if I still feel good, then why not?”
It makes sense for there to be a level of high expectations for Peppers’ return to Carolina, especially after his production in Green Bay. Carolina’s defense took a marked step back in 2016, a year after coming up short against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Injuries to key players like Luke Kuechley and the loss of Pro Bowl corner Josh Norman in a last-minute roster move which saw him land with the Washington Redskins contributed to the Panthers downward spiral in 2016.
Carolina is hoping the addition of a veteran such as Peppers, plus the return of Kuechley can help bring the Panthers defense back to it’s elite stature and help boost the team back into the NFC Playoffs in 2017.
Peppers signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal that could max out at $4.25 million with incentives and spoke about the desire to return to the Panthers organization a few days ago.
“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,” Peppers said an interview with the team’s official website.
“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.”
“The growth as a person was important for me,” Peppers said. “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.”
“It feels good to be home,” Peppers said. “It actually feels like I never left.”