New Packer Julius Peppers eager to play with Clay Matthews
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter May 29, 2014 10:03PM
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers sacks Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 13, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 23-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:43AM
Julius Peppers’ first media session as a member of the Green Bay Packers featured some interesting answers from the typically soft-spoken player who preferred to stay out of the spotlight in Chicago.
One of the most important factors in Peppers’ decision to join the Packers was the chance to play with linebacker Clay Matthews.
“I haven’t really played with a guy like Clay my whole career,” Peppers told reporters Thursday in Green Bay. “Early in my career [with the Carolina Panthers], I played with a guy in Mike Rucker, who was a threat on the other side. But a really dominant player on the other side, I really haven’t had that, ever. So I’m excited.”
Peppers has a point. The Bears’ left-end position hasn’t been held by perennial Pro Bowl players.
Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton played the most opposite Peppers in 2013. In the three seasons before that, it was veteran Israel Idonije primarily at the other end.
Peppers was signed in 2010 to be that “really dominant player” for the Bears. But he wasn’t even close during an erratic 2013 season, which saw the Bears’ defense fall to historically bad levels. Peppers’ 71/2 sacks and 31 solo tackles last season were his lowest totals since 2007.
All of it made Peppers and his $18,183,333 salary-cap hit for 2014 expendable. A contract restructuring in September 2013 actually increased his cap hits for 2014 and 2015.
So Peppers was cut with two years left on his contract on the same day the Bears signed defensive end Lamarr Houston. The Bears later were able to sign defensive end Jared Allen, who had 561/2 sacks over the last four seasons compared to Peppers’ 371/2.
“I felt fine last year,” Peppers, 34, said. “Circumstances around me and the [Bears], you know, led to certain things. But as far as me and how my body feels, I feel great.”
Peppers will play outside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme.
“They have a lot of pieces in place — that was important [in signing with the Packers],” Peppers said. “Guys have a lot of talent, a lot of talent on this team. I feel like I’ll blend in well with these guys.
‘‘Those are some of the things that led to me wanting to be here.”