Peppers turns 37 but not looking ahead

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - Julius Peppers turned 37 years old Wednesday.

Rather than reflect on where he was in his career and where he might be after this season, Peppers said he only wanted to think about the Atlanta Falcons and what it would take to beat them Sunday in the NFC championship game.

Peppers is in the final year of his contract with the Packers but hasn't said whether he intends on playing next season. Winning a Super Bowl might be the perfect way to go out, but Peppers said he hasn't thought any further than this weekend.

He said he hasn't even allowed himself to think about the possibility of playing in another Super Bowl, the first since the 2003 season when he was on the losing end as a member of the Carolina Panthers.

"We're trying to keep the focus on the game, that's all," Peppers said Wednesday. "We don't want the picture to get too big just yet. We want to focus on the preparation, keep it about this game, not a bunch of extra stuff.

"I'm not really thinking about it that much. I'm really just trying to dive into the preparation. You can't necessarily worry about the outcome too much. Preparation is what's going to give you that confidence to go out and perform. That's where we're really trying to dive in and hone in on that because that's the most important thing at this point."

This will be the fifth NFC championship game in which Peppers has participated and second with the Packers.

After Peppers and the Panthers lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, they made it to the NFC championship again in 2005 where they lost to Seattle. It wasn't until 2011 with the Chicago Bears that he knocked on the door again. Then the Packers came into Soldier Field and beat the Bears.

Finally, in 2014, the Packers had the NFC Championship in hand against the Seahawks and choked away a Super Bowl appearance.

This could be Peppers' last chance at a Super Bowl. In two playoff games, Peppers has four tackles, a sack and two passes batted down.

He's one of the few players on defense who isn't worn down from the long stretch since the bye week. Coach Mike McCarthy has been giving him at least one day a week off to allow him to stay fresh. It's not what Peppers is used to or wants, but he has accepted that it's for the best.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten used to it because I want to be there," he said. "I want to be with the guys sometimes so it’s a little tougher to sit out, but you have to be smart as well. You have to know what’s best for you. You have to be proactive and be smart about how you’re using your body.

"We’re adjusting to it. We are still figuring it out, taking Wednesdays off, but I’m in all of the meetings and everything so it’s fine. I’m still here mentally.”

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