Peppers pushes on
Julius Peppers isn't worried, and he doesn't think Green Bay Packers fans should be concerned either.
Peppers, the Packers' prized offseason acquisition, understands why some fans might have some reservations about him. He's 34 years old. He's entering his 13th NFL season. He's a rarity for the draft-and-develop Packers—a big-name free-agent signee.
And although he appears to still be in tip-top physical condition, even Peppers acknowledges that it's reasonable to wonder just how much he has left.
“You know, I guess it's something that you expect,” Peppers said. “There's not a lot of 34-year-old defensive ends playing in the league, so I guess it's a fair question.”
Peppers' performance in the team's preseason opener at Tennessee last week didn't do much to answer that question.
He played 10 snaps and admitted he was a non-factor. He was also out of position on Shonn Greene's first-quarter touchdown run, as Greene went right through the area Peppers vacated when he rushed up the field.
“I didn't get much done,” Peppers said. “But it's a start. It's a start. We'll play a little bit more this week and see if we can get a little better this week.”
But Peppers cautioned, he shouldn't be judged on what he'll do this season based on one rain-soaked game that doesn't count.
“We'll see about that,” he said. “I'm not really going to get into too much discussing what I can and can't do. I'm going to let the film speak for it.”
As with other aging pass rushers who switched teams—DeMarcus Ware, who went from Dallas to Denver, and Jared Allen, who went from Minnesota to Chicago, it's reasonable to wonder just how productive Peppers will be with his new team.
He had 7½ sacks last season for the Bears while playing 855 snaps, and the Packers believe less will be more for him: Fewer snaps, more production.
The feeling in the locker room since Peppers' signing in March—from Aaron Rodgers to Clay Matthews and down the line—has been one of excitement.
While transitioning to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme for the first time in his career has been a challenge, the coaches still believe that rushing the passer doesn't change despite the defensive alignment.
“Julius is doing good. We've asked a lot of him. We haven't just lined him up in one spot,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He's picked it up quickly, he's getting more and more comfortable, particularly whom he's playing next to and things like that. I think he's having a solid camp.”
Said Peppers: “I've had to make a few adjustments with stance and things like that, getting off from a two-point stance. But other than that, it's really a lot like playing defensive end. So the transition has been pretty smooth.”
Peppers figures to play more extensively this Saturday at St. Louis, but he still may not produce any eye-popping plays, he said.
“(Preseason) is just about getting adjusted to the speed, really. Technique and things, over the years you develop and you get pretty sound at those things,” Peppers said. “It's just about doing them at game speed.”
And if he is up to speed in time for the Packers' Sept. 4 regular-season opener against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, Peppers said, that's all that matters
“Preseason is what it is. We're going to get through that,” Peppers said. “Eventually we're going to have real games for everybody to talk about.”
n In the most spirited practice of training camp, a few fights erupted, most in conjunction with a physical and competitive run-blocking drill. “It was the practice we needed,” McCarthy said. “It was a physical practice and based on the way we've scheduled the team throughout training camp, I think we got done what we needed to get done today.”
n The fighting included a rare sight: Two position coaches—offensive line coach James Campen and linebackers coach Winston Moss—getting in each other's face in a shouting match that fired up their guys. “He has a heck of a beard, and I wanted to see it up close, because I can't grow one,” Campen joked afterward. “And then he gave me some weight-loss instructions on how to trim up. Things happen. No big deal. It was just a real intense practice.”
n Wide receiver Jordy Nelson took part in practice, but remains limited in his snaps because of a lingering hamstring injury.