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August 02, 2009

Transcript: Julius Peppers interview

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Following is the transcript of Observer reporter Charles Chandler’s exclusive interview with Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers Saturday afternoon, one day before he reported to training camp. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and/or clarity.

Q: How was your offseason?
   A:  It’s been good. I’ve been relaxed and working out, of course. I’ve stayed in shape. Other than that, I’ve just been relaxing, taking trips and trying to get ready for training camp.

   Q: Before last season, you worked out in Arizona. Did you do that again?
   A: Yes, for part of the time, I was in Arizona. The other part of the time I was at home in Charlotte, actually, with a personal trainer.

   Q: Your teammates were high on your conditioning when you showed up to camp last year. How would you compare yourself now to then?
   A: I feel about the same as I did last year as far as conditioning-wise. I know I wasn’t around for the camps and summer school and those things, but as far as my conditioning, I feel like I’m in must as good a shape as last year, and I’m ready to go.

Q: How was it for you to miss minicamp and summer school practices for the first time in your NFL career back in May and June?
   A: It was a difficult situation because on one hand, I wanted to be there and I wanted to be around my teammates that I was going to be playing with and getting adjusted to a new (defensive) coordinator. On the other side, it was just one of those things where I wasn’t under contract so I had to let the business side run its course.

   Q: How do you feel about this season?
   A: I feel good about the team and the players who play, as I did last year, as I said after the last game we lost (33-13 to Arizona in the playoffs on Jan. 10). I said the game was disappointing but I feel like we’ve got the right guys in this locker room. I still feel that same way. I never doubted any of my teammates or anybody, or any of the coaches, because I feel like this team is headed in the right direction. I feel really good about the players that we have in the locker room and I feel good about the prospects for the upcoming year.

   Q: How do you think your teammates will receive you?
   A: Basically, during the offseason, I had contact with several of my teammates. There were several of the guys I talked to, and I out of everybody I talked to, I have not heard any negative feedback from anybody, so I expect us to pick up where we left off. My relationship with those guys remains strong.

   Q: How do you expect the fans to react to you?
   A: I’m not really expecting anything. I know fans can be with you when things are good. And when things are bad, I know they can turn against you. I’m not really expecting too much. I understand that there are people out there who are disappointed with how things went, but at the same time, I know the number of real fans I have far exceeds the portion of the fan base that isn’t too isn’t too pleased with what’s going on with me. I can’t let what (it) affect me and how I prepare and how I do things. At the same time, I want to show my appreciation for the real fans who have showed their support for me.

   Q: Given how strongly you expressed your desire to leave the Panthers back in January and February, are you disappointed it didn’t go your way and how do you proceed with a team you didn’t want to play for?
   A: I understood the situation that I was in – fully. I understood everything. I understood all the options and what could happen and some things that may not happen, so nothing surprised me. Can I say I’m disappointed that things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go? I can’t really say I’m disappointed at anything. At that time, I realized the career of an NFL player is not very long. I’ve been fortunate to becoming up on my eighth season. Before I sign a long term deal, I felt the need to be sure about signing a long term deal with any team. At that time, I felt whatever I did was in my best interests.
   And, after that (in the summer), I came to Charlotte from Phoenix and had a one-on-one conversation with Mr. (Jerry) Richardson. After that conversation, I felt good about our conversation. I felt good about my future in Charlotte (and) I gave Carl (Carey, his agent) permission to open discussions with Marty (Hurney, the Panthers’ general manager) on a long-term deal. Basically, after that, I thought the long-term deal would get done. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come to terms – either side (by the NFL’s July 15 deadline). As far as that, I can say it’s unfortunate, but I cant say I’m disappointed or unhappy because I’m fine with deal I have in place and the situation I’m in currently.

   Q: Are you still open to signing a long-term contract with the Panthers?
   A: I think, under the right circumstances, under the perfect circumstances, I’m open to a long-term deal.

   Q: Tell us more about your meeting with Mr. Richardson? How was it, what was the tone of it?
   A:  I can say it was a good meeting. I’m not going into any specifics or details about what was said. The tone of it was a good thing. There were no hard feelings. We laughed and talked about the whole thing. Like I said, after the meeting, I felt good about continuing to talk to the team after that.

   Q: Was talking to Mr. Richardson an important step for you going forward with the Panthers?
   A: I think so. I think I needed to just talk to him and let him know. Sometimes when you hear things from the media, some things can get misinterpreted and you read into things wrong. So I felt like it was good for me to talk to him and let him know where I was coming from, personally, from my own mouth so he could understand how I felt about everything. Sometimes, if you take things the wrong way, it could be a rift there and there is really no need for it because you haven’t (taken) time to sit down and understand where a person is coming from.
 

  Q: The controversy over your status happened when Mr. Richardson was having serious health problems. He has made it clear over the years how much he thinks of you. Do you think his feelings were hurt by the position you took?
   A: I can’t really say. I don’t know. I’m not going to speak for him. I don’t know if his feelings were hurt or not, but I can say that after the meeting, after talking about everything, there was like mutual respect, always. I think he respects my decision and what I tried to do and, at the same time, I respect his.

   Q: From your perspective, why did a long-term contract not get accomplished with the Panthers after you began open to the possibility?
   A: We just weren’t able to (agree). We traded proposals. We sent the proposal and they sent it back. At the time, we just couldn’t agree on the terms of the deal. That’s basically it. That’s expected in this league. A lot of times those things don’t happen in a short time period. … Who knows? Maybe somewhere in the future.

   Q: Do you think there is still a rift between you and the Panthers?
   A: No. I don’t think so. If it is, I don’t feel it. The short answer to that is I don’t feel it. If there is, I don’t know about it.

   Q: There have been questions about whether your motivation to play could be affected by the contract dispute. I’ll ask you directly: Are you `all-in’?
   A: Oh, definitely. I have no reason not to be. I’m under contract to play for this team. During this time, everything I can do to help this team win is going to be done on my part. That’s been my attitude and my approach in every season I’ve played. I have no reason not to put forth full effort in any game that I play.

   Q: Have you met yet with new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks or new defensive line coach Brian Baker?
   A: No, I have not.

   Q: How do you feel about playing for a new coordinator and a new position coach?
   A: I’m looking forward to getting there and meeting those guys, getting a chance to understand the defensive philosophy they coach. I’m receptive to the new challenge that is ahead. I’m looking forward to meeting those guys and getting started with them.

   Q: Do you expect to be used in any different way this season than in the past, since you’ve stated a desire to be put in position to be more of a disruptive force on defense?
   A: I’m not really sure what I expect because I haven’t been around. I know what I saw from (Meeks’) defense at Indy, but I can’t say I expect things to be the same because we have different personnel (from the Colts) and we have a different head coach (John Fox) who likes to do things a certain way. I’m not really sure what to expect right now, but I’m looking forward to getting in there and finding out.

   Q: What is your impression of what you saw from Meeks at Indy, since he had very productive defensive ends in Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney?
   A: I have heard nothing but great things about him. I saw what he was able to do in Indy. He got those guys to perform up to the level of (their) offense. We know the end result of that was a Super Bowl. I have much respect – much respect – for what he’s done and the defense he’s put on the field.

   Q: You’ll be making more than $1 million a game with your new contract. How does it strike you to think that?
   A: That’s just the deal. That’s the way it works. The franchise tag has … A lot of time players don’t want it, but sometimes good things come from it – sometimes, in certain situations. That just happened to be one of those good things. That’s all I can really say about it. I really don’t think about it too much. I don’t really have too much to say about that number.

   Q: Does making that much money put extra pressure on you?
   A: No, not really. Internally the pressure is always there for myself, from my teammates, from my coaches,  that’s the pressure I want to strive under. I don’t really want to let the outside influences put any extra pressure on me by what fans say, what media writes and how much money I’m making every game. From that standpoint, it doesn’t add any other pressure other than what I place on myself.

   Q: What are your specific goals for the season?
   A: I’m not going to really get into any specific personal goals. The main objective every year is to win the Super Bowl. That’s why we play the game. That’s the No. 1 goal every season. That’s always at the top of my list. I’m mainly a team goal guy. I don’t really have any personal goals. I have a few. I probably don’t want to say them.
   I have two personal goals, but most of things I want to do in my career, I’ve done them, as far as personal accolades and accomplishments, I’ve done almost everything I want to do, so my focus is on team-oriented stuff, winning the Super Bowl, winning the division, helping my defense rank statistically among the top in the league, those types of things.
 

  Q: You just said you’ve accomplished most of the personal things you want to already in your career, but a few months ago you said that you didn’t feel like you could reach your full potential with the Panthers. Where are you now on that issue?
   A: My thing with that is you’re never going to be the greatest, no matter how hard you try. You can get to that point for a certain period of time, but it’s not going to be for very long. You’re not going to be the greatest forever. You could always try to get better, and that’s my vision. I want always to do better than what I’ve done. What I did last year was good, but I feel like I can do better and I’m striving to do better, whether it be in the system I’m placed in or a different one. That’s how I look at that.

   Q: Looking toward the future, since you’re playing under a one-year contract, you could receive the franchise tag again next February and essentially repeat what happened this year. How do you feel about possibly going through all of that again?
   A: That’s just a bridge we’ll cross when we get to it. I not going to comment on something that’s five or six months down the road. But we’ll see what happens. I can’t really say what’s going to happen or what I want to happen because I don’t know yet.
 

  Q: After you were franchised, was there ever a time when you thought you were close to being traded?
   A: I had interest from several teams. But for me to make a move, it’s got to be the perfect situation. I didn’t feel like at the time, none of those things that came about were perfect, so at the end of the day, I didn’t really entertain (them) because I feel like I’m in a good spot.

   Q: Before we close, is there anything you want to say to fans about anything that’s happened?
   A: All I can say is I appreciate their support, and they can look for and expect great things from the team this year.

  Q: Should anyone be concerned about whether you’ll give your full effort?
   A: No. And, speaking to that, I browse through the TV every now and then and the newspaper, and see things about me taking plays off and all of those kinds of things. Basically, from my viewpoint, I know what I’m supposed to be doing on the field. And I know what kind of effort I’m giving. Anybody who thinks I don’t put forth full effort or I can do more than what I’m doing, all I can say is I’m happy with how I play. I’m going to continue to play how I play. I’m going to continue to play with the same effort, which is full effort. Nobody has to worry about me taking any plays or games off. For the record, I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know who put it out there, but it seems like everybody jumped on the bandwagon and formed an opinion for themselves based on what (someone) else said. But if they look at the tape, they’ll see whether I play hard or not, and I do.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on August 2, 2009 at 02:46 PM | Permalink

Comments

I like that you came out and addressed those people who always use the "take plays off comment". Maybe now that broken record will get thrown in the trashcan. Welcome back Pep! Looking forward to a successful season for and from you guys.

Posted by: Edawgg | Aug 2, 2009 5:04:22 PM

Now if we only had a QB.

Posted by: StartMoore | Aug 2, 2009 6:42:43 PM

Amen Edawgg!!!! Amen!!!! I think Peppers plays the way the defensive play is called. He will flourish under Meeks system. I think not only Peppers but the whole defense will have a big year. I think we'll finish in the top 5 if not three as a unit. Meeks seems to like to have guys flying around making plays and our defense has guys able to do so.

Posted by: Tyrone | Aug 2, 2009 6:58:52 PM

My memory is kind of foggy because it has been awhile but didnt the Panthers have that "flying to the ball" mentality when Jack del Rio was the DC? Those sure were good times.

Posted by: Edawgg | Aug 3, 2009 8:45:41 AM

Poopers is a r*%&@#! He has done everything he can "to help the team!?!" He single handedly helped ruin this team; a team that could have been playoff bound for years to come. So Poopers, please save your two-faced lies for your own personal need for rationalizing what you've done and who you really are.

Oh, and by the way, the "real fans" stopped being your fan when you pulled this a-typical junk! And then you have the nerve to question where we get the idea that you take plays off!?! We watch you play (or more precisely, take plays off), j*ck*$$!!

Posted by: SYRPIS | Aug 3, 2009 9:14:48 PM

PEppers contracdicted himself sooooooo many times!!! in this interview in relation to things he said after the season ended it's to much to even talk about. He's obviously talking about Buck..I think saying "I take plays off" PEP U DO!!! It didn't take Breston Buckner! to tell fans that! WE HAVE EYES!! you _____________!
Im out!

Posted by: Cheven | Aug 4, 2009 4:05:20 PM

I am glad Pep is back and I agree with his assessment of our fan base. Basically if you go to a home game and anyone makes a mistake then the fans overreact and boo anyone in sight. For our team to reach the goals Peppers wants, we have to have be a more supportive fan base. Think about it ... all the great teams in the past have had great home team support ... it's half the season. Yes, we went undefeated in the regular season last year. With a stronger home support, could be a more confident team and happen again. If you win 8 at home then win 4 on the road your in the Playoffs. Or you can be a typical home game Panthers fan. Leave at halftime, no matter the score Our fans suck ... always fair-weather fans. You want to see the type of fans we need… go to the Panthers home game when we play big game. More of fans from the away teams than our on local fans . Thank you for reading my rant.

Posted by: Jp | Aug 4, 2009 9:35:23 PM

Peppers, dont listen to anyone you are awesome and that is all that matters. I go to almost every game cheering for you.

Posted by: Ashley | Oct 18, 2009 10:48:00 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

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