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February 28, 2010

Clemson WR Ford betters 4.3 in 40 at combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford ran a pair of blazing 40-yard dash times in testing this morning at the NFL combine. He was timed unofficially at 4.28 and 4.27 seconds, respectfully, according to the NFL Network.

Later today, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller will take his turn at the 40.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 28, 2010 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

February 26, 2010

ASU's Edwards to throw, but not run at combine due to hamstring injury

INDIANAPOLIS -- Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards said he'll participate in quarterback drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, but won't be able to run due a strained hamstring he suffered last week.

Edwards had hoped to run the 40-yard dash for pro teams at the combine and also run pass routes, since many scouts consider him a prospect as a wide receiver and kick returner.

Edwards said he was running routes last week when his hamstring popped.

"It wasn't a pull, though," he said.

Edwards now will prepare to run his 40 and work out as a receiver during his pro day at Appalachian State next month.

"I wanted to run my 40 here because everybody is up here, but only a select few will come to the pro day," he said. "It would've been really good if I could've run here."

After talking to his agents, he said he decided he didn't want to risk further injury by trying to run at the combine.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Casserly: Peppers may not receive offer as good as what Panthers offered in '09

INDIANAPOLIS -- Charley Casserly, the former Houston Texans and Washington Redskins general manager, said today at the NFL Scouting Combine that Panthers' unrestricted free agent defensive end Julius Peppers may not find a team willing to pay him as much as the deal he turned down from Carolina last summer.

"I think it's a fascinating one to watch," said Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network and CBS Sports.."I don't know what Carolina's final numbers were, but Carolina has never been cheap with players. They've always paid the market and maybe a little bit above to make sure it gets done.

"Maybe the best deal he would have had will be the one he had a year ago."

It's believed the Panthers offered Peppers a contract averaging somehwere between $13 and $14 million per year last summer, but that the offer fell short of Peppeers' demand to be the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.

The Panthers recently decided not to put their franchise tag on Peppers for a second consecutive year because it would have required them to make him a one-year tender offfer of $20.0196 million plus a $1.5 million Pro Bowl incentive bonus.

Peppers can begin fielding offers from other teams once the free agency signing period opens March 5. Among teams believed to have an interest are Philadelphia and Chicago.

"Will there be some teams interested in him? There are a going to be a few, but not a lot," said Casserly. "I don't think you're going to see a big market for the guy."

Peppers, 30, is a five-time Pro Bowler who recently was named to the NFL's all-decade team. He holds the Panthers' team record with 81 career sacks. However, the consistency of his effort has been questioned at times.

"When you watch him as a player, I think his whole career has been the same," said Casserly. "This guy can turn it on like he did against the Minnesota Vikings (last season) ... but he's had games where he doesn't show up for the whole game, doesn't play hard all the time and isn't totally productive.

"He's (also) 30 years old, so you're going to hold your breath a little bit on this one. But I think he's going to get a heck of a contract and he clearly is the No. 1 guy out there."


There has been speculation that the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina's rival in the NFC South Division, could have an interest in Peppers.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith would neither confirm nor deny interest in Peppers Friday, but made it clear the team's top priority in the offseason is to improve its pass rush and pass defense, needs that would fit what Peppers does best.

Smith said he's glad he'll no longer have to play against Peppers twice a year.

"Having Julius Peppers out of the NFC South would be a good thing," said Smith. "He has been an outstanding player for a number of years. He's a guy you always have to be aware of where he is aligned and you always have to scheme to protect your quarterback."

Asked specifically if the Falcons were interested in trying to sign Peppers, Smith said: "This year the free agent class is not as deep. There's not as many numbers. We're going to do our due diligence on every free agent that's available and we've been spending a lot of our offseason (doing), not only on the personnel side, but with our coaching staff watching tape."

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2010 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Bears' Smith sidesteps Peppers issue

INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith kept a stern face when asked moments ago if his team is interested in pursuing Panthers unrestricted free agent defensive end Julius Peppers.

"Is he available?" Smith said. "If there's a player that's available, and when they do become available, we're going to look at all of them."

There have been multiple reports that the Bears would attempt to sign Peppers once the free agency signing period opens March 5. Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher already has come out in support of such a move.

Pressed further on the Peppers issue and Urlacher's public comments, Smith said:

"I can't talk about anybody specific. Any good players on the market, we're going to look at. Bryan Urlacher wants to go to Dallas and win the Super Bowl next year. Like all players, they would like to get as many good players on their team with them as possible."

Among other teams believed to have interest in Peppers is Philadelphia. Speculation regarding New England at the combine is that the Patriots may not be willing to pay what it would take to sign him.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

Panthers lose toss, but still win, will have 47th pick in Round 2 of draft

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Carolina Panthers will have the 47th pick in the second round of the NFL draft by virtue of an early-morning coin flip with the Tennessee Titans.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney lost the coin flip with the Titans, but that affected Carolina's first-round selection, which was traded to San Francisco last year. As a result of the flip, the Titans will pick 16th and the 49ers 17th.

The draft order is reversed in subsequent rounds, meaning the Panthers (47th) will pick ahead of the Titans' selection (48th), in Round 2, which Tennessee already has dealt to New England.

The Titans and Panthers both finished 8-8 last season and were tied for strength of schedule, necessitating the tie-breaking coin flip.

Bottom line: It actually helped Carolina to lose the flip.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 26, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

February 23, 2010

Peppers describes exit as "bittersweet"

   On the day Julius Peppers finally received the freedom he’s sought for more than a year, he described his parting with the Carolina Panthers as “bittersweet.”

   “This state has been my home for 30 years and I’ve been in Charlotte for almost a third of my life,” Peppers said in an exclusive telephone interview with the Observer. “On one hand, it’s kind of sad to walk away from where I’ve been a long time. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to finding a new home and continuing to build the legacy I have in this league.”

   Peppers, a Baiiley, N.C., native who played collegiately at North Carolina, learned late Monday night that the Panthers would not use their franchise tag on him and would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, news that general manager Marty Hurney announced to the media during a news conference this afternoon.

   Peppers will be free to negotiate with any teams starting March 5, the start of the NFL’s free agency signing period.

   Peppers said he looks forward to exploring options and finding the team that fits him best. However, he said has barely begun to think about where that might be.

   “Right now, I’m just officially getting the news I’ll be able to pick a new team,” he said. “As of right now, I don’t really have all the information necessary to make a decision of where I want to be. I don’t even know what my options are. There are a lot of things that will factor into the decision.”

   Peppers said he doesn’t have a preference whether to remain a defensive end in a 4-3 defense or to play outside linebacker in a 3-4.

   Peppers will be one of the top unrestricted free agents available, though some league analysts have downgraded him somewhat because he’s 30, an age when the skills of many defensive ends show marked decline.

   However, Peppers, who had 10 ½ sacks last season, said he doesn’t think age should factor into how teams evaluate him.

   “I really don’t think that’s as a big a deal as everybody is trying to make it into,” he said. “Everyone’s body is different. Body types vary. To look at a couple of people and how turning 30 affected thehir body is not the same as the next person. Everyone’s body reacts differently to the physical nature of the game.

   “I feel the same as I did last year, or two or three years ago. I don’t feel any different. It’s just a number to me.”

   Peppers, who said recently that he was “turned off” because the team hadn’t communicated him since the season ended, said he leaves the Panthers without hard feelings.

   “I don’t resent the Panthers’ organization for making this move,” he said. “I don’t have one ounce of hate or disdain in my body for anyone associated with that team.”

   Asked how he wants to be remembered by Carolina fans, Peppers said: “I cant really control how people are going to view my career as a Panther. I want to be remembered as an upstanding guy, a good teammate, and a very productive player. That’s about it.”


   -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2010 at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

Hurney: $20 million for Peppers too much

    Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney did the expected Tuesday, announcing that the team would not use the franchise tag on defensive end Julius Peppers.

    The 30-year-old Peppers will now enter the unrestricted free agent market, and the Panthers will be left to fill a spot that’s been nailed down for eight years.

    Hurney said Tuesday the decision ultimately came down to the team’s unwillingness to swallow more than $20 million for another tag, even if that meant letting him walk with no compensation. He used the word “magnitude,” several times in discussing the tender, showing that the finances were what brought this deal down.

    Hurney also mentioned several times the young core of players that needed contracts in the near future -- though he didn’t name them, players such as linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason, center Ryan Kalil and running back DeAngelo Williams -- as central to the decision to not tag Peppers.

    “You have to weigh everything,” Hurney said. “We feel like we’ve drafted very well in recent years, ... We have some very talented young players that in the future that have to be addressed at some point.

    “All those things are factors.”

    Hurney stressed there were negotiations recently, and that he wasn’t closing the door on talking to agent Carl Carey again in the future, while acknowledging that it was very unlikely that Peppers would return.   

    “We have felt for some time that Julius would have the opportunity to test the free agent market in 2010,” Carey said in an e-mail. “He has had a very accomplished career thus far; but he is convinced that with this move he will thrive and develop fully into the player he was destined to become.

    “He is excited about his future and looking forward to the process of selecting his next destination.”

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2010 at 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

Peppers' goal: Find right match

Julius Peppers' statement, via agent Carl Carey, on the Panthers' decision not to use the franchise tag on him, making him an unrestricted free agent:

"Last night, I learned that the Carolina Panthers would not restrict my availability during the upcoming free agency period.  I feel good about having the opportunity to visit with other teams.  My goal will be to find the right match for my skill set.  I am thankful for the eight seasons I have spent in the National Football League thus far; and am looking forward to beginning this new phase of my career."

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2010 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Carey: Peppers looking forward to next step as unrestricted free agent

Carl Carey, agent for Panthers soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defensive end Julius Peppers, released the following statement as team general manager Marty Hurney got set to meet with the media to announce the would not use the franchise tag on Peppers:

"We have felt for some time that Julius would have the opportunity to test the free agent market in 2010.  He has had a very accomplished career thus far; but he is convinced that with this move he will thrive and develop fully into the player he was destined to become.  He is excited about his future and looking forward to the process of selecting his next destination."

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2010 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Panthers to explain their decision to let Peppers become a free agent

Julius Peppers' days with the Carolina Panthers are over and after weeks of silence, the team finally will discuss its position on the matter this afternoon when general manager Marty Hurney meets with the media.

According to a source close to the situation, Hurney will announce that the Panthers have decided to allow Peppers to become an unrestricted free agent and to forego using the franchise tag to either protect or trade his rights. The tag would have cost the Panthers more than $21.5 million, including a $1.5 million Pro Bowl incentive bonus.

Peppers and his agent, Carl Carey, have said the Panthers have made no attempts to negotiate a long-term contract extension since the season ended. It's believed that the team, and owner Jerry Richardson in particular, soured on the idea of trying to keep Peppers after negotiations last summer failed to result in a new contract.

Prior to those talks, Peppers and Richardson had a reconciliation meeting, which followed Peppers' stated desire to leave the team after the 2008 season.

Peppers, 30, went on to have 10 1/2 sacks this past season and to earn his fifth Pro Bowl bid. He also was named to the NFL's all-decade team and is the Panthers' all-time sacks leader with 81.

Hurney's news conference is scheduled to begin around 2 p.m.

We'll have full coverage, so stay tuned.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on February 23, 2010 at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (113)