Peppers thanks teammates by taking them to Hawaii

daringantt@carolina.rr.comFebruary 1, 2009 

CHARLOTTE -- Julius Peppers might not be interested in coming back to the Panthers, but he's taking a few of his teammates for a long goodbye this week.

After the season, Peppers told his defensive line teammates they'd be his guests this week in Hawaii, when he goes for his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl.

"I'm taking them to show my appreciation for the camaraderie we have, and to reward them for the hard work they put in this year," Peppers said in a text message forwarded from his agent Carl Carey.

That's quite a bump for his fellow starters, but Peppers' invitation extends throughout the meeting room, even taking rookie Nick Hayden, who spent most of the year on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster the final two weeks because of injuries.

Damione Lewis isn't going, since he just underwent shoulder surgery, and Peppers gets a bit of a break on the travel since Maake Kemoeatu already lives in Hawaii.

Linebacker Jon Beason, who is making his first trip to the Pro Bowl, said when he was voted in he owed much to Kemoeatu as well, and was going to hire him as a "tour guide" while he was in Hawaii.

The all-star game will likely be Peppers' last appearance as a Panther, as he has already communicated through his agent a desire to leave. Carey told reporters two weeks ago that Peppers would not sign a long-term contract with the Panthers, and if franchised, would prefer to be traded.

• HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: It was a bit lost in the prelude to the Panthers playoff loss to Arizona, but Panthers backup quarterback Josh McCown said he is proud of his former Arizona teammates, all the while acknowledging the burden of history they had to overcome to get to tonight's Super Bowl.

Before the Panthers lost to Arizona in the divisional round, McCown was looking back on his four years in the desert, during which they went 20-44.

"I don't think you are aware of it until you go through a season and you're not successful," he said of the team's sordid past. "Then you hear the fans and the media go 'Same old Cardinals' and 'Here we go again.' Then immediately you know, once you've been through it a year, you understand where they're coming from.

"You understand the history then, that 'Man, this franchise hasn't been very good.' It's hard."

He said individual players can try to stay upbeat, but admitted that eventually the pile of negative reinforcement would get to anyone.

"It weighs you down," he said of playing for the Cardinals. "You can say it doesn't, but inevitably it does. I'm sure with the success of the Patriots, you go there and you feel better, you feel like you have a chance to be successful. That's just who they are.

"It takes a lot to change. Especially when you have a long history like that, it takes a lot to change it. That's why I'm excited for them, because to do what they've done is pretty special, having been there and had to go through those days, and go through some of those seasons, I'm happy for them."

• YOUR NEW FAVORITE PLAYER: The Panthers continued filling in the roster from the bottom up last week, signing two more players to future contracts.

One was Geoff Schwartz, last year's seventh-round pick who spent the year on the practice squad and has some promise as a run blocker.

Then there's defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo.

Actually, his full name is Babatunde Oluwasegun Temitope Oluwakorede Adisa Oshinowo Jr. That's 51 letters, without the Jr. (or Junior, just to make it 57).

Though he's of Nigerian heritage (he'd be a chief there if he'd stayed), he was born in Naperville, Ill. He owns a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford. Scored a 37 on the Wonderlic. Smart guy.

Also, he plays the trombone.

• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers are getting close to announcing the rest of their coaching staff, after new coordinator Ron Meeks and coach John Fox spent the week trying to assemble the defensive side.

One guy they're talking to is linebackers coach Mike Haluchak, who worked with Fox before with the New York Giants. But he has multiple offers, including one from Oakland. With plenty of vacancies around the league, the going is much slower than the Panthers imagined, as they expected to have their staff finalized before the Super Bowl. ...

You know how you can tell the Panthers are really working on getting Jordan Gross' contract done? They're even buttering up his agent.

Oshinowo is represented by agent Ethan Lock. So is Gross. So it's easy to imagine that while they're finalizing the details of the one-year deal for the spare defensive tackle, they drop in a "Hey, about that other thing..."

Speaking of those contracts, most of the 11 players the Panthers have signed to future deals got one-year pacts. Schwartz got a three-year deal. If he doesn't make the team, it doesn't matter, but it shows they think he's worth hanging onto.

daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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