Iconic defensive end Julius Peppers returned to the Carolina Panthers at age 37 over the weekend, signing a one-year, $3.5-million contract. He has yet to have a formal “Welcome Home” press conference in Charlotte after making his return official.
Peppers has spoken with both the team website, though — where he said he wanted to “build the bridge back” between himself and the Panthers — and also did a nine-minute interview Wednesday morning to Charlotte sports radio station WFNZ. Here are some excerpts from Peppers’ comments on that radio interview Wednesday:
▪ On his role with the team: “We haven’t really talked about that…. I can say this: It’s not one of those situations where I’m coming back for a farewell tour. I’m coming back to play, and I’m coming back to try to make some things happen. So my expectation is to be out there and be productive.”
▪ On whether he was hurt by what fans said about him in 2010 when he left Carolina: “To say I was hurt was a little bit of an overstatement. I was a little bit confused.”
▪ On tossing a touchdown ball away from Cam Newton in Charlotte while he was a member of the Green Bay Packers: “When I did those things… even (in 2015) with Cam, throwing the ball, all of that stuff is done in fun, showmanship, the competitive spirit…. It’s never personal with me.”
▪ On leaving North Carolina in 2010 for Chicago in part to get more under-the-radar and out of his homestate: “That was part of it. I needed to step away for my personal growth and development…. When I went to Chicago, there was Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman — those guys were fixtures… I went out, I saw those things, I grew… I’ve become a whole different person.”
▪ On Cam Newton: “I think he’s a phenomenal talent and a great athlete…. I’m happy that he’s going to be on my side now. But it’s a great thing to be able to come back and be able to mesh the ‘old school’ with the ‘new school’ and have everybody together at least for one season. I think it’s going to be a cool thing for everybody to see.”
▪ On whether he might play beyond the 2017 season: “Well, right now, I’m taking it one year at a time. At the end of the year if I still feel good, than why not?”