In an interview earlier this week Panthers Coach John Fox indicted he fully expects DE Julius Peppers to return to his Pro Bowl form in 2008.
"I expect Pep to come back in a big way," Fox said at a media breakfast with NFC coaches at the league owners' meetings.
What I find unusual about the comment is that it’s the first time I’ve heard Fox say he thought Julius had a sub-par season in 2007. All throughout last season as fans and pundits were asking questions about Peppers lack of sacks, Fox always insisted Peppers was still performing at a high level. I’m sure that’s about the most negative thing you will ever hear John Fox say about Pep.
"I love Julius Peppers. We are not looking to trade Julius Peppers," said Fox. "We want him with us for some years to come. He did not have his best season a year ago. I won't argue that. He won't argue that. But we're ready to move on."
We still don’t know why Peppers production slipped. I’ve heard many different rumors and thought I had heard it all until now. Here’s one that I missed:
Fox was repeatedly asked to respond to speculation about why Peppers' production slipped, including rumors that a worm had sapped him of his strength.
So he had a tapeworm? You have to be kidding! Ha...more like a ‘sack’ worm that sucked all the sacks out of him. That’s a little over the top don’t you think? Seriously, we do know that Peppers had an undisclosed illness during training camp that caused him to miss some time. One rumor was that the medication he was taking made him lethargic and affected his aggressiveness. We still don’t know for sure what the illness was which I find a little strange.
Regardless, all indicators are that Peppers will be ready physically and mentally this coming season. What he needs just as bad is a compliment on the other side of the line. If the Panthers do not nab DE Derrick Harvey in the draft then it will be up to 2nd year player Charles Johnson or 3rd year player Stanley McClover. Given the recent signing of DE Tyler Brayton the Panthers may not draft a DE at all. Johnson is a 3rd round pick and should be capable of logging serious minutes in 2008.
I ran a poll on 2/13/08 asking the readers of this blog if we should resign Peppers this off-season.
Out of 70 votes, 74% of voters ‘wanted to lock up Peppers for a long time’. Another 15% wanted to wait until after this next season. That leaves only 11% wanting to trade him now. I think its safe to say most Panthers fans still love Julius Peppers too.