|Peppers helps quiet Panthers offense in his return to Charlotte|
|Written by Richard Walker|
|Sunday, 10 October 2010 17:37|
CHARLOTTE – To many Carolina Panthers’ fans, Julius Peppers’ show of emotion as he helped his new team, the Chicago Bears, roll to a convincing 23-6 victory had to be infuriating.|
After all, Peppers was often criticized by even the most ardent Panthers’ supporters for being too passive or failing to maximize the wondrous talents of his 6-foot-7, 283-pound body – or both.
But in Sunday’s victory, Peppers twice motioned to Bank of America Stadium fans who booed his every tackle by motioning them to be quiet.
Afterwards, Peppers said his actions were all in fun. Besides, there were some cheers for the former football and basketball star at the University of North Carolina who spent his first nine seasons playing for the Panthers.
“It was fun,” said Peppers, who was officially credited with four tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass interception of a pass he deflected. “It felt great. I saw a lot of old faces. I tried to see everybody I could. It wasn’t akward or anything. It was just another game once it got started.
“I found myself being a little bit more winded earlier with all the energy. I guess it was nervous energy.”
When asked if motioning to fans to be quiet by putting his finger to his helmet as to say “Shhhh,” was a statement, Peppers offered: “Not really. I was just having a little fun with the crowd. I wasn’t taking it (boos) personal. Neither should they.”
Peppers, who got 15 tickets for friends and family, admitted the game was strange for him. His coach, Lovie Smith, understand that as well.
“You guys know Julius,” Smith said. “Of course he was trying to low-key it as much as possible. But when you come home, it’s always special. He’s got a lot of fans here. A lot of people have seen him grow from a young kid to the guy he is today.”
Said Peppers: “I have never been in this situation before. It’s not like I went off to college and then came back and played against UNC or the home team. It’s not like I got drafted by another team and wa able to play them (the Panthers) before. This was a first-time experience and it was special. It felt better to get the win.”
Peppers also got a not-so-subtle dig in at his critics when asked to characterize his play Sunday for a defense in which he lined up at both right and defensive end in the Bears’ 4-3 alignment.
“They (the Panthers) got six points, so we played well,” Peppers said. “My impact on games goes far beyond what a stat sheet would say.”
The day started friendly enough for Peppers who talked to several Panthers’ players and coaches during pregame warmups.
“I still have a lot of respect for the coaches and all of the players,” Peppers said.
When asked what he said to Panthers’ coach John Fox, Peppers said: “I just wished him luck and said, ‘Hi!’”
But Peppers said he did not speak to either general manager Marty Hurney or owner Jerry Richardson.
As for how he feels now, in his first season away from his home state of his life, Peppers was reflective and forward-thinking.
“I was here for 30 years so of course I missed it a little bit,” said Peppers, who wore a Bears’ T-shirt to his postgame news conference. “As far as the football part of it, I don’t really miss anything. I’m happy where I’m at now.”