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Somber Jabrill Peppers coy about future: 'I don't know'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers participates in pregame warm-ups.

Miami Gardens, Fla. — Jabrill Peppers sat in the Michigan locker room, fighting back tears and sounding emotional when discussing how difficult it was to sit out the Orange Bowl Friday night because of a hamstring injury suffered a day earlier in practice.

This may have been the last time Peppers, who tried to loosen the hamstring in pre-game warmups, wore the Michigan uniform. Peppers watched from the press box as Florida State beat Michigan, 33-32, in Hard Rock Stadium.

Peppers is considering leaving for the NFL draft. He is projected to be a first-round selection.

“I don’t know,” Peppers said, when asked if this was his last Michigan game. “I’ve got some decisions to make. I’ll probably take it all the way up to the deadline.”

Underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to file declaration papers with the NFL.

“Everything that happened will work into that decision, not just this game,” Peppers said. “I still feel like I didn’t do all that I set out to do as an individual and a team. We didn’t make the playoffs. We didn’t make the Rose Bowl. Coming and losing the Orange Bowl just sucks. We worked so hard for it. We worked too hard to come away with nothing.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Peppers, a Heisman Trophy finalist and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, was hurt in Thursday’s practice.

“Jabrill had a hamstring grab on him,” Harbaugh said. “He was jumping for a ball. It was very unfortunate. He wasn’t able to run, could see it on the film yesterday, and he couldn’t get to where he could run and be effective out there, so we didn’t play him.”

Peppers was on the field early in pre-game warmups trying to stretch.

“Every time I tried to extend my leg up, there was a sharp sensation,” he said. “They wrapped it in IcyHot. I didn’t want to hurt the team. I was just going to slow the team down. I’m used to playing a certain way, a certain play style.

“They told me to see how I felt after warmups when I get the adrenaline pumping and your body gets warm and loose. It loosened up a little bit but it wasn’t enough to play. I felt if this game was Saturday, I’d definitely play in this game. You hurt a hamstring one day before a game, man, no matter who you are, it’s going to be tough.”

He said after being hurt his freshman year he applied for insurance.

“I don’t think anybody knows about that process,” he said. “After my freshman year and I got hurt, I didn’t care about getting hurt anymore, not only because I had insurance but I had a football team to win for. I just stopped taking everything for granted.

“I could care less about what people thing about why I didn’t play. Not being out there with my brothers, that hurts more than the loss.”

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Peppers was not on the sideline during the game, a decision, he said, was made by Harbaugh.

“I wanted to be on the sideline,” Peppers said. “Coach Harbaugh made me go upstairs to the press box. I think he said it would be like a spectacle or something like that. It was best if I was up in the press box. I was doing whatever I could up there, doing what I could to help the team, helping with personnel, things like that.”

He said he was frequently texting former Michigan defensive lineman Willie Henry, who was on the sideline, telling him certain things he was seeing from his press box perch.

Sitting at his locker, Peppers clearly was emotional and said he had many thoughts going through his mind.

“This sucks we couldn’t send these seniors out the right way,” he said. “It sucks I couldn’t help the team. We worked too hard. I feel the season was, all the hard work we put it in, the seniors definitely deserved better than this. Not being able to play sucks.”