CHARLOTTE – Why did Julius Peppers decide to come back for a 17th season?
It’s simple, really.
“I just want to keep playing,” Peppers said as OTAs concluded. “I still love the game. I didn’t necessarily feel like I was done with it. That’s why I came back.”
The future Hall of Fame defensive end went on to clarify that there are two sides to this equation. Obviously, the Panthers were interested in re-signing Peppers after his long-awaited homecoming resulted in an 11-sack season.
“It’s never truly a solo decision by the player,” Peppers said. “You have to want to come back, and the team has to want you. They wanted me to come back. And I guess if I didn’t perform, they might not want me to.”
As is often the case when retirement nears, this wasn’t always a straightforward decision. It’s tough for Peppers to be away from his kids. They live in Florida, his full-time residence, and Peppers travels home to see them as often as he can during the season.
Then there’s the physical wear and tear. After undergoing shoulder surgery in February, Peppers has been a rehabbing spectator throughout spring practices.
“You have days where you’re not sure (you want to keep going). Other days you’re feeling good. It’s just a back and forth,” Peppers said of the decision-making process. “But I felt like I needed to do this.”
One thing that made the decision easier: Eric Washington’s promotion from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator.
“It definitely made it easier. I’ve known him for a long time. I know what he stands for and the things he can do,” Peppers said. “I wanted to spend a year in his defense and be there for him.”
Another thing that made it easier: Carolina’s ability to contend for a championship following an encouraging 11-5 season.
“I feel like, this team, we’ve got a shot,” said Peppers, who has never won a Super Bowl. “I wanted to give it one more try.”
It all sounds like this upcoming season will be his last, and it probably will be.
Probably. Not definitely.
“I don’t want to say this is it – even though this is likely it,” Peppers said while cracking a smile. “I never want to put an expiration date on it, just because you never know what’s going to happen.
“I’ll leave the door open.”