CHARLOTTE — Julius Peppers left without saying anything.
He didn’t beat John Fox by much.
The Carolina Panthers beat the New Orleans Saints 23-10 Sunday, but the game was an afterthought.
The story of this one was more about who’s staying and who’s not, and the question surrounds the team’s highest paid player and head coach.
The Herald reported Sunday morning that multiple team sources said he was laying a foundation for an exit, upset with the team’s unwillingness to extend his contract. He’s currently bound to the Panthers through 2010, but could ask for permission to seek another deal.
That seems even more likely now, as he evaded questions about his future at every turn Sunday.
“Like every off-season there is evaluations and things you look at,” Fox said. “I usually talk to my family and see where all of that goes. We’re just getting started with that so I can’t comment on that. ...
“I have a year left on my contract and I haven’t had any postseason conversations with (owner Jerry Richardson). I have an agent that handles those things.”
Fox generally talks to reporters the Monday after the season, but a team spokesman said Sunday not to expect to hear from him tomorrow.
Peppers split quickly, but teammates sounded more optimistic than ever that they can lure him back. The Panthers now have a window to negotiate a long-term contract, or they have the option to use the franchise tag again
“It’s just a matter of the contract now,” linebacker Jon Beason said.