Stafford nemesis Peppers, 37, still ‘doing it all’ for Panthers

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Julius Peppers

Allen Park – After seven long seasons of sharing the NFC North, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford thought he had finally rid himself of nine-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. But not even a Carolina homecoming would be enough to keep the two from crossing paths once again.

Peppers, who checks in fifth on the NFL’s all-time sack list, is hardly showing his age in his first season back with the team that drafted him 15 years ago. He’s coming off a two-sack performance that netted him the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week award and he already has 4.5 sacks on the season.

“He looks like the Julius Peppers I’ve played against my entire career,” Stafford said. “Obviously still extremely big and athletic, a ton of veteran savvy now, and he’s playing really well. Getting in the back field, disrupting loose plays, getting after the quarterback, doing it all.”

Peppers, 37, has sacked Stafford six times in 13 matchups. The first, in the 2010 season opener, injured the quarterback’s shoulder, knocking him from the lineup for five games.

More: Lions remain mum on Armonty Bryant's future with team

“I’ve been around guys that have played 14, 15 years and they look like they’ve played 14, 15 years. He doesn’t,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a conference call this week. “He’s got that kind of work ethic, that kind of energy every time he shows up.

“I mean, he is tremendous, and he’s in tremendous shape, and he just works at his game,” Rivera said. “We, as coaches, try to make sure we manage him during the week so that, come Sunday, he’s ready to roll.”

Peppers is 2.5 sacks behind Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Doleman for fourth place among the NFL career leaders.