|Carolina's Julius Peppers calls it quits on 17-year NFL career|
|Panthers great announces retirement|
|Published Friday, February 1, 2019 11:39 am|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Julius Peppers announced his retirement Friday after 17 NFL seasons. He finished with 159.5 sacks, including 97 with the Panthers.|
Seventeen NFL seasons are enough for Julius Peppers.
The Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers announced his retirement Friday, closing a career that includes 159.5 sacks, fourth-best in NFL history. Peppers tallied a franchise-best 97 sacks in two stints in Carolina, and with 11 interceptions he’s the only player in league history with at least 150 sacks and 10 picks.
“I’m thankful for the things you showed me that were bigger than football, and for a second chance and new beginning,” Peppers, 38, said in a thank-you video posted on the team’s website.
“Players, we come and go. The constant is you, and as the saying goes ‘Once a Panther, always a Panther.’”
“In getting to know Julius over these past months, I’ve learned that he is a man of few words. When he speaks, everyone listens,” Panthers owner David Tepper said. “With that in mind, I will be brief. He’s one of the best to ever wear a Carolina uniform. He carries himself with dignity, integrity and class, and will always be a Panther.”
Peppers, who grew up in Bailey, N.C., earned nine Pro Bowl berths – five with the Panthers – as well as four of six Associated Press All-Pro designations. Both are second-most in Carolina history. Peppers, the second pick overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, earned AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after tallying 12 sacks his first season. He left Carolina for Chicago in 2009, where he played four seasons and three in Green Bay (2014-16) before returning to the Panthers.
“There are very few players that you come across that make you think of the word ‘special’ when you mention their name, but that’s Julius,” said Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney, who drafted Peppers in his first stint in Carolina. “He’s a special player and a special person. His consistency and the ability to make big plays at big times are what define him on the field. Off the field, he’s a great leader. He chooses his words carefully. He’s got great perspective not only on football, but on life. For him to be able to come back and finish his career as a Panther is a great ending to a phenomenal career.”
Peppers, the NFL’s oldest defensive player in 2018, was durable, playing 266 of a possible 272 regular season games over his career, which is sixth-most among defensive players in league history. He played in 176 consecutive games to close his career, the second-longest streak among active players at season’s end behind Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“Julius is one of the greatest to ever play the game of football,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “To put up the numbers he did for as long as he did speaks to his incredible talent and commitment.”
Peppers, who racked 897 tackles based on coaches’ film review, accounted for at least seven sacks in 15 of his 17 campaigns, with a career-best 14.5 sacks in 2008. Since 2002, His 21 fumble recoveries are the most in the NFL, his 51 forced fumbles are second, and 82 passes defensed tops all defensive linemen. Peppers scored six career touchdowns, which is tied for the most by a defensive lineman since 2002 and is 12 among all defensive players. He was also a standout on special teams with 13 blocked kicks, second-most since the league first recognized the statistic in 2000.
The soft-spoken Peppers returned to Carolina with more a more public persona. In his final season, he embraced safety Eric Reid’s protest against police brutality and racial inequality as well as earning Carolina’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination for Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.
“He is a leader in the locker room and in the community,” Rivera said. “Getting to know him over the last two seasons has been tremendous because of the type of person he is. What he did for the people affected by Hurricane Florence, getting involved and bringing them hope, says a lot about him. I’m proud that I get to say that I was one of his coaches, and I think it’s fitting that he gets to end his career as a Carolina Panther.”
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