Q: Talk about your desire to play in a new system, and why your time here has passed?
Peppers: “Really, it’s been seven years. Seven good years. I think my desire has been stated. There’s nothing that’s been said that doesn’t represent how I felt about the situation. As far as wanting to explore a different system. I said things about wanting to maybe play in a 3-4 and that’s still the case. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m ruling out any other teams that play the 4-3, I just want to have the option available. I feel that particular system would allow me to do things that playing defensive end in a 4-3 doesn’t necessarily allow me to do.
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Q: If Carolina franchises you, what’s your next move?
Peppers: “If they decided to use the tag on me, the first thing that I would be doing is requesting a trade. And anything after that, basically I don’t know. I don’t know what would be the course of action. Basically we’ll deal with that when the time comes.”
Q: After seven years here, what is it about the situation here that you want away from?
Peppers: “Seven years is a long time. Since I’ve been here, I’ve given it everything I’ve had. There’s never been a time I wasn’t giving my all. Basically, it’s a situation I feel it’s the point in my career where I want to do different things.
“It has nothing to do with anything that happened between me and any coaches, me and the owners of this team, nothing to do with anything anybody said. I just feel like personally, for me and my career, it’s time for a change. And that’s pretty much it.”
Q: Is this as much about leaving your home state as it is leaving the Panthers?
Peppers: “Really it’s not about that. If I said that had nothing to do with it, that wouldn’t be the truth. But it’s not as big of a deal as people may think it is. It’s really more about me getting to a point where I feel like I’m happy and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing and how my career’s going. North Carolina’s home for me, it’s always going to be home, so even if I do leave, it’s not like I just want to get away. It’s home. It’s really not as much about that as you may think.”
Q: Since your announcement that you wanted to leave, defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and line coach Sal Sunseri left for other jobs. Does that make you second guess wanting to leave?
Peppers: “Basically, with Sal and Trgo, it had nothing at all to do with Sal and Trgo. Or coach (John) Fox for that matter. Them leaving has no effect on my desire to try something different. That really didn’t have anything. When Sal called me and I read about Trgo leaving, that didn’t change how I feel about the situation at all.”
Q: If the Panthers had switched to a 3-4 scheme, would you want to stay?
Peppers: “I can’t really, ... The thing is, if the Panthers had did that, that’s speaking in fantasy football. Coach Fox is a 4-3 guy, and I could never really see him switching and going to a 3-4. I can’t really answer that question because I don’t think it’s possible.”
Q: Have you decided which teams you’re interested in?
Peppers: “I really can’t go into detail about what city and what team I’d be interested in playing for. Right now it’s kind of up in the air. That’s something we’ll get to when it comes. I have teams that I’m interested in, but to go into detail wouldn’t be important. That’s the wrong way for me. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Q: Several of your defensive teammates said you were saying good-byes after the playoff loss to Arizona. When did you know you wanted to leave?
Peppers: “When I did that, when I went up to my teammates, it was just to say to my fellow D-linemen. Basically, I felt coming into this year the D-line was looked upon as the weak link of the football team. Basically, I was just going after the Arizona game when clearly we were going to lose and time was running down, I just told them. ‘Look man, coming into this year nobody expected a lot from us, and I was proud of how we played, and it was a pleasure to play with a group of guys,’ ... It was a pleasure to work with those guys. I was expressing how thankful I was to have those guys as teammates. That’s pretty much what that was.”
Q: When the Panthers made a contract offer early last season, did you know then you wanted to leave? When did you realize it was over here?
Peppers: “That point came after the season. When the Panthers made the contract offer, that was before the season. At the time, I was more focused on helping the football team win and accomplishing our main goal. During the season, that’s all I was focused on. I wasn’t focused on any contract or whether I wanted to be there or anything. The decision was made after the season and everything was over and I had a little time to think about it.”
Q: Have the Panthers told you they planned to franchise you?
Peppers: “I really don’t have an answer to that question. They haven’t expressed anything to me about whether I will or will not. We can assume a lot of different things, a lot of different things. That’s up to them, what they do and when they do it.”
Q: If you were the Panthers, with you and Jordan Gross potentially becoming free agents, what would you do?
Peppers: “If it was my decision, basically this is what I would do. Jordan Gross has come out and stated he wants to sign an extension with the Panthers. You’ve got one player who says he does and one player who says he wants to move on and try something different. If I was in that situation, I would try to accommodate the guy that wants to be there, number one priority.”
Q: Have you talked to owner Jerry Richardson about your decision over the last few months?
Peppers: I have a lot of respect for Mr. Richardson. Basically, to go into any detail about any conversations we’ve had, I don’t think that would be doing any good. Basically, those conversations are private, and I’m not willing to comment on anything that’s said between us.”
Q: Are you still in Charlotte? What are you doing now?
Peppers: “Basically, I’ve been in the Pro Bowl, been just relaxing man. Right now I’m not in Charlotte, but I really haven’t been doing too much. Just relaxing and letting the body calm down from a long season.”
Q: Are there things about the 3-4 that intrigue you, such as the way DeMarcus Ware’s free to make more plays in Dallas?
Peppers: “I can’t really say DeMarcus Ware, or (Pittsburgh’s) James Harrison for that matter. They both had great seasons, but I look at myself as a different player from either one of those guys. When I say reaching my potential, ... and another thing, too. When I say reaching my potential, that’s not a slight against coach Fox and his system. I enjoy playing that system. I excelled in it. I feel like I’ve been productive for the most part my whole career. When I say I want to reach my potential, that’s a personal thing. I’m not trying to blame coach Fox or any other coach I’ve worked with.
“Basically, I have personal standards and personal goals. That’s more of a thing, I feel like my abilities, I feel like they could be maximized and I could be even more productive than I’ve been in the past. I’m close to maxing out in the system that I’m in now.”
Q: What is the perfect situation for you, what are you looking for in your next team?
Peppers: “It seems like this is getting repetitive, but I’m looking for a chance to do new things with the abilities I have, that playing this position I’m playing now just doesn’t allow me to do. That’s just it. Again, the system I played in was great, it was good. I don’t have any problems or any negative things to say about where I’ve been. It’s just about doing something different for myself and for my career.
“One day I’m not going to be able to play football any more. Whether that’s five years, or 10 years. Whenever that is, I don’t want to look back and say ‘Dang, I wish I had played somewhere or did something else.’”
Q: Are there any off-field things you’re looking for in your next destination?
Peppers: “Not really. This is a career decision. This is not about wanting to be in an attractive city. This is about being on a football team and a position that allows me to accomplish the things I want to do on the football field. It has nothing to do with any of that other stuff.”
Q: What would you tell the fans wearing number 90 jerseys about your wanting to leave?
Peppers: “Basically, the fan support since I’ve been in Charlotte has been tremendous. Basically what I’d say to these people is, you have to take the emotional part of it out, and look at it, put your ownself in the situation. If you were being held back in your job, and you fulfilled your contract and all the obligations you had contractually, and did everything you had to do, and worked seven years, and it was time for that contract to expire and you wanted to do something different, then I know you did all of that, and fulfilled what you were supposed to do, and basically you decided not to stay.
“I don’t think people would be willing to live under those same standards they want to place on me. I just don’t feel like you would. What I’d say is, ‘Put yourself in my shoes, and look at the situation instead of being emotional about it.’”
Q: Have you talked to coach Fox, Marty Hurney or Mr. Richardson since your announcement a month ago?
Peppers: “Basically, any conversation I’ve had with those three, those are things I’m not willing to talk about right now.”
Q: If the Panthers tagged you, and couldn’t trade you, is there any scenario in which you could return as a Panther.
Peppers: “Like I said, that’s a long way out. That’s too far out for me to even be thinking about right now. Right now, I’m waiting on the franchise tag or not waiting on the franchise tag. From there we’ll see the next. That’s too far out to be wasting any energy or any time thinking about.”
Q: Do you expect them to tag you?
Peppers: “Really, I really don’t know. They could, they could franchise me. The answer to the question is I don’t know. I’m not expecting it and I am expecting it. It’s so many dynamics to the situation, it’s possible for them to go either way on it. I don’t know what to expect.”