Chris McClain of WFNZ's "The Mac Attack" interviewed the quiet man, Julius Peppers, Monday, and the network ran the interview Tuesday morning. Several of us have tried to get Peppers to talk. Mac did.
The interview could be construed as a long goodbye. Nothing Peppers said would make you think he expects to return to the Carolina Panthers, the only NFL team for which he has played.
I've been writing since the end of the season that Peppers was gone, so maybe I'll get one right. I picked Indianapolis to beat New Orleans Sunday in the Super Bowl. Based on my e-mail, some of you read the column.
I like Peppers. Although he rarely talks to the local media, at least he is consistent. He doesn't suddenly become an extrovert when Sports Illustrated or ESPN come to town. He is as guarded as any athlete, and maybe any person, I've been around.
He seems uncomfortable with adulation. But he's comfortable with quiet. He's not standoffish, however. His teammates like him. None of them say, "All right, Julius is here, now the party can start!" But they joke with him in the locker room, after practice and at training camp.
I think Julius is a decent guy, an extraordinary athlete and a very good football player.
But I disagree with one statement he made in the interview with Mac. After the 2007 season, in which he had 2 1/2 sacks, the Panthers offered to make him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Yet he didn't sign.
"Somebody might say that's not a smart business or career decision," Peppers said in the interview. "But for me personally I'm not deserving of that. Why would I accept an offer for that amount of money when my performance is nowhere close to that level?"
The statement is honorable. But Peppers never even acknowledged the contract. He didn't ask for more. He didn't say he was overpaid and ask for less.
My interpretation then was that he was putting himself in position to leave the Panthers. He still is.
Peppers has fulfilled his contractual obligations to the Panthers, and the Panthers have fulfilled their obligations to him.
Cars wear out. Furniture wears out. I believe the relationship between Peppes and the Panthers also has.