Julius Peppers doesn't expect his slow start to continue

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CHARLOTTE – Julius Peppers is now the oldest defensive player in the NFL, but despite a slow start to the season, he has no intention of acting his age.

"We'll get there. I'm not worried about that at all," Peppers said. "Right now I'm worried about helping us get a win this week against Cincinnati. The accolades, all that personal stuff, that will take care of itself."

The list of accolades for Peppers over the course of his career is long, and the 38-year old sack artist has been richly rewarded along the way. Friday, he announced his latest effort to give back in the form of a $100,000 donation that he hopes will fuel even more financial support for those recently impacted in his native North Carolina and adjoining South Carolina by Hurricane Florence.

Peppers also talked football with the media for the first time since last season's playoff loss, and he fielded the expected questions about his limited snaps and lack of sacks through two games.

Playing about 35 percent of snaps so far coming off offseason shoulder surgery (he played 50 percent of snaps last year), Peppers will enter Week 3 without a sack for the first time since 2014.

"To get back on track with sacks? It's something I know how to do, and I'm not that concerned about it," Peppers said. "They always say that the first one is the hardest one to get and that they come in bunches. We'll get there.

"You know I didn't play any in the preseason, and I just started practicing four or five weeks ago. It's a process."

Peppers, who returned to practice less than a month ago, said his shoulder feels fine, though he continues to work to strengthen it. His snap total went down from 24 in Week 1 to 21 last week, but there's an expectation that Peppers will see some more snaps Sunday when the Bengals come to town.

"We've talked about it and we've talked with Pep, too," head coach Ron Rivera said. "A lot of it depends on him. We want to make sure we're at that point with him where we can go forward. We're going to work him more this week and see how it goes.

"The guy is unbelievable. He works hard. He's the kind of guy, you wish he was younger and you could have him here longer. He's just tremendous."

Peppers isn't getting any younger of course, and when 39-year-old cornerback Terence Newman retired before the season started, Peppers officially became the oldest current player on his side of the ball.

"I guess it is a badge of honor," he said. "I'm fortunate to be standing here still after 17 years, almost injury free. I'm blessed."

Peppers has blessed Panthers fans with countless memories over the years, and his sack count currently stands at 154.5 – six shy of passing Kevin Greene for third most in NFL history. Peppers, selected No. 2 overall by the Panthers in the 2002 NFL Draft, had 11 sacks in his return to Carolina last season following seven years in the NFC North with the Bears and Packers.

"I feel that I have more to offer, and I still enjoy playing. It's still a good gig," Peppers said. "Also with the relationships I have here with (defensive coordinator) Eric (Washington) and with my teammates, it makes it hard to leave sometimes."

It's too early to say but never too early for the media to ask if Peppers plans to return for an 18th season in 2019.

"Eventually there's going to come a day when you have to prepare for the post-football thing, and I've been thinking about that for the past five years," he said. "At some point I had to think about if I could still play and if I still wanted to.

"We'll see when we get there. We'll see about that. I don't know."

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