Julius Peppers, the soon-to-be former Carolina Panthers defensive end, held a conference call with reporters on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of love in the air. Here, we provide our take on a few of the comments that Julius made and, on occasion, offer a translation to his thoughts.
Q: Could you discuss your desire to play in a new system and why do you want to leave Carolina’s system for something new? What is it that makes you want a change?
A: Really, it’s been seven years, seven good years. I think my desire has been stated. Nothing has been said that doesn’t represent how I feel about the situation. As far as wanting to explore a different system, I said things about wanting to maybe play in a 3-4, and that’s still the case. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m ruling out any other teams that play a 4-3. I just sort of have that option available because I feel in that particular system, it would allow me to do things that playing defense in a 4-3 doesn’t necessarily allow me to do.
Here’s the sales pitch. It started early. Sure, he wants to play in a 3-4 defense. The problem here is that now he suddenly wants to play wherever he’s given a chance to succeed. What is he not being given a chance to do in Carolina?
By not narrowing it down to just 3-4 teams, he leaves to door open to more oportunities.
Q: If Carolina franchises you within the next week, what would be your recourse at that point? Have you told them you would not show up to minicamp or anything of that sort?
A: If they decide to use the tag on me, the first thing I would be doing is requesting a trade. Anything after that is basically, I don’t know. I don’t know what would be the course of action. Basically, we would deal with that when that time comes.
This is no surprise. This we could have counted on. We all knew he wanted to play somewhere else, didn’t we? See, Pepp, the thing is, if the team does franchise you, they’re probably doing it so they can trade you.
Q: Is this as much about getting out of North Carolina, your home state, as much as it is leaving the Carolina Panthers?
A: Really, it’s not really about that. If I was to sit here and say that had nothing to do with it, that wouldn’t be the truth. But it’s not as big a deal as people may think it is. It’s really more about me getting to point where I feel like I’m happy and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing and how my career is going. Carolina is home for me. It’s always going to be home. Even if I do leave, it’s not like I want to get away, because it’s home. It’s not really as much about that as you may think.
Translation – I want out of North Carolina so I can live somewhere else. Maybe he’s tired of hearing the bad news from Wachovia and Bank of America so often.
Q: Since (agent) Carl (Carey) made the announcement that you wanted to leave, defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac left and defensive line coach Sal Sunseri left, did those changes allow you to reconsider at all whether you wanted to leave the Panthers?
A: Basically, with Sal and Trgo, it had nothing at all to do with Sal and Trgo — or Coach Fox for that matter. Their leaving has no affect on my desire to want to try something different. When Sal called and said he was leaving, or when I read about Trgo leaving, that really didn’t change the way I felt about the situation at all.
They are okay with Pepp, right? Cool. Well, I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that and I’m sure they will too.
Q: If the Panthers had switched to a 3-4 scheme, would that have made you want to stay?
A: That’s just speaking in fantasy football because Coach Fox is a 4-3 guy and I could never really see him changing and going to a (3-4). I can’t really answer that question because I don’t really think it’s possible.
No, John Fox is not switching to a 3-4 to make Julius happy. It’s not what he does and it’s not what he’s coached all this time. Even if he did, Julius would want to leave.
Q: Which teams are you interested in going to?
A: I can’t really go into detail about what city and what team I would be interested in playing for. Right now, it’s still kind of up in the air. Like I said earlier, that’s something we’ll get to when it comes. I have teams that I’m interested in, but to go into detail would really be pointless because that’s a long ways away, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
More sales pitch. There are only so many teams running the 3-4. He can’t tip his hand but he’s also let us know that it won’t have to be a 3-4 defense.
Q: Have the Panthers told you they’re going to franchise you, and is there any chance they wouldn’t?
A: I don’t really have an answer to that question. They haven’t expressed to me whether they will or will not. We can assume a lot of different things. There are a lot of different routes they could go. That’s up to them, what they do and when they do it.
Translation – Marty Hurney isn’t an idiot and hasn’t been calling Peppers’ agent to tell him what the team is doing.
Q: If you were the Panthers and you were in the situation they’re in, with you staring at free agency and Jordan Gross staring at free agency, and only one tag to go around, what would you do? And, secondly, have you had any contact with Jordan Gross about what’s going on right now?
A: If it was my decision … basically, this is what I would do: Jordan Gross has come out and stated he wants to sign an extension with the Panthers. You’ve got one player saying he does (want to stay) and one player who says he wants to move on and try something different. If I was in that situation, I would try to accommodate the guy who wants to be there – (as the) No. 1 priority.
The second part of that question, I saw Jordan last week in Hawaii, of course. We didn’t really go into depth about his situation or my situation. We don’t really know a lot of details about each other’s situation. It wasn’t really about (that) at all. It was really about just the past season and just having fun in Hawaii. It really wasn’t much about contracts.
Julius, of course you would say that. We know what decision you would make. Right now, however, the decision isn’t in your hands, is it?
Q: Could you elaborate on your interest in playing in a 3-4 and what you’ve seen other teams do with players in that scheme that intrigues you? Is it sort of how Dallas uses DeMarcus Ware?
A: I can’t really say DeMarcus Ware, or (Pittsburgh’s) James Harrison, for that matter. They both had great seasons. I look at myself as a different player from either one of those two guys.
When I say `reaching my potential’, that is not a slight against Coach Fox and his system. I enjoyed playing in his system and I excelled in it. I feel like I’ve been productive, for the most part, my whole career. When I say I want to reach my potential, that’s a personal thing. I’m not trying to blame Coach Fox or any other coach I’ve worked with. Basically, I have personal standards and personal goals.
It’s more of an internal thing. I’m the only one who truly knows the ability I have. I feel it could be maximized and I feel like I could be even more productive than I’ve been in the past. I feel like I’ve gotten close to maxing out in the system I’m in now.
Pepp, I wouldn’t say that 2 sacks for a full season is exactly “maxing out.”
Q: For the fans wearing No. 90 jerseys and trying to grapple with this, even as much as you’ve tried to explain it, what would you say specifically to them?
A: The fan support since I’ve been in Charlotte has been tremendous. What I would say to these people is you have to take the emotional part of it out and place your own self in this situation. If you were being held back at your job and you fulfilled your contract and all the obligations you had, and played or worked seven years on a contract and it was time for that contact to expire, and you wanted to do something different and you were told, `I know you did all of that and you’ve fulfilled what you’re supposed to do, but you’ve still got to stay.’ I don’t think people would be willing to live under those same standards they want to place on me. I just don’t. So what I say is (to) put yourself in my shoes and look at my situation instead of being emotional about it.
We’re not judging you on just the fact that you want to play somewhere else, Pepp. As fans, we feel like you have been given the chance to succeed in Carolina. “Rush the passer,” the coaches said. Did you? Now you want to leave.
It looked to us like you were taking plays off and for you to want out is a slap in our faces. We are the reason you have a paycheck. Remember that.
Q: If the Panthers do put the tag on you and can’t get a trade they consider fair value, do you see any scenario at all where you would come back as a Panther next season?
A: Like I’ve said, that is a long way out. That is too far out for me to even be thinking about right now. Right now I am waiting on the franchise tag, or not waiting on the franchise tag. From there, we’ll see what happens next. That’s too far out to be wasting any energy and any time on that.
Based on how you talk, it’s doubtful that the team wants you to come back.
Q: Are you expecting that tag?
A: I really don’t know. They could do it. The answer to your question is I don’t know. I’m not expecting it and I am expecting it. There are so many dynamics to this situation. It’s possible for them to go either way on it, so I don’t know what to expect.
Expect it, Julius. It’s coming.