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Article:Searching for the old Julius Peppers

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Julius Peppers has elected not to show up to the Carolina Panthers mini camp this year. It is just another action to show dad (or Coach John Fox) that he’s unhappy in Carolina. As a fan and a sports connoisseur, I’m getting fed up with the silly antics of star athletes such as Peppers.

Peppers has been franchised by the Panthers. If he signs the contract, he is scheduled to make 16.7 million next season, meaning he would be making over a million per game. Yet, he is still crying about being a Panther. Peppers wants to be traded to the New England Patriots. Wow, what a dynasty filled with allegations of being dishonest! Since the franchise tag has been placed on him (smart move by the Panthers organization) any team interested would have to talk directly to his agent, Carl Carey, who would have to directly talk to the Panthers organization to approve such a trade. In effect, the team that got Peppers would have to forfeit 2 first-round draft picks in 2010. In all honesty, sometimes Peppers isn’t worth the headache.

I say that because Peppers is losing his tenacity and hunger. He was a great player at a not so great school, the University of North Carolina. When drafted in 2002, Peppers proved to be a valuable asset to the Panthers defense. He was smart, quick, powerful and, most of all, determined. Somewhere between his first year in the NFL to this current fiasco, Peppers has lost his fire to compete. His stats may not prove this lost of fire, but every fan knows he’s not the same Peppers we grew to love. And, championships aren’t simply won by great players, but they are won by players who have the same hunger from year in and year out.

Anyhow, Peppers entered his career having played over 10 games, amassing 35 tackles and 12 sacks. His record for the most part, solely on his numbers, shows consistency. His worst years came in 2003 and 2007. In 2003, the year of the Panthers’ Super Bowl run, he had only 44 tackles and 7 sacks. Mind you, lest you forget, the Panthers lost the Super Bowl because of a lack of defensive presence to hold Tom Brady. The defense was a no show. And, in 2007, he had a measly 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks. If we were just looking at the numbers, we forget everything including what it takes to win championships and focus on his performance last season in which he had 51 tackles and 14.5 sacks. A stellar performance? Yay and nay!

Yay, Peppers put up great numbers, but his performance was lackluster. It was evident in the huge upset the Arizona Cardinals had over the Panthers in the 2008-2009 NFL playoffs. Julius Peppers, the leader of the Panthers’ defense, was a no show. He lost his fire, his swagger to be a hungry defensive end for the Panthers. As a fan, you notice it more and you have a tendency to ignore it when you’re still winning. However, in the midst of what will be a long and grueling 2009-2010 campaign, the Panthers need a hungry defensive leader.

They don’t need the Julius Peppers that showed up in a 2007 match up against the Jacksonville Jaguars and was embarrassed by the undersized running back, Maurice Jones-Drew. They need the Julius Peppers of 2002. They need #90 to attack the offensive line with a tenacious hunger to lay any offensive lineman on his backside. They need #90 to play like this is once again a great opportunity to live out his dream of being a great NFL player. They need Julius Peppers to take a quick inside move, swat the lineman away, and get into the quarterback’s face until he is on the ground.

Julius Peppers, I guarantee you, there isn’t another team or organization that will treat you with as much respect as the Panthers have shown you since day one. They’ve given you time and space to make a decision as to whether or not you want to don the famed #90 jersey for the Carolina Panthers. So if you want to leave because you think the Panthers can’t win the Super Bowl, and then by all means leave. If you want to leave because you think you can get more money elsewhere, and then by all means leave. However, if you still believe in the Carolina Panthers that its fans have grown to love since its inception into our hearts in 1995, then stay. We cherish you as a player, but we want our Julius Peppers back in his original form, swagger and all.


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