Julius Peppers salutes Packers fans in announcing retirement: 'Green Bay just felt like home'
After 17 seasons, former Green Bay Packers defensive end Julius Peppers announced he was retiring Friday in a story on The Players' Tribune.
The future Hall of Famer spent three seasons (2014-'16) with Green Bay — and four with the rival Chicago Bears — sandwiched between two stints with the Carolina Panthers.
“And Packers fans? I guess more than anything, Green Bay just felt like home,” Peppers wrote. “You know, small town, good people who love their football … it was a really great experience being a part of that culture. I was sad to leave Green Bay, and I don’t think I would have left to go anywhere but home to Carolina.
“So to Chicago and Green Bay: Thank you for embracing me and allowing me to be a part of your families.”
Peppers' 159½ career sacks rank fourth all-time, behind Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene.
Peppers also thanked former teammates in his farewell piece.
"Aaron Rodgers, just for being an all-time great player and teammate … and for making me believe that somehow, a Hail Mary can be a high-percentage throw," Peppers wrote. "I’ve never seen anybody do some of the things you can do, man. I’m glad I had a front seat for some of it."
And Peppers defended fired Packers coach Mike McCarthy in expressing gratitude to all his NFL coaches:
"To my other coaches — Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli in Chicago, Mike McCarthy (who got a raw deal in Green Bay this year), Ron Rivera and all my coaches in Carolina: Thank you for being incredible leaders and great men. I’m proud that I got to play for each of you."
How do Packers fans feel about Peppers now that his playing career is over?
There’s no question he added some value to the Packers from 2014-'16, even if his best years were behind him. He was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl squad and participated in the playoffs all three years.
Including 2014, a season which ended … well, pretty much everyone remembers how it ended. And Peppers made one of the more memorable decisions in that nightmarish NFC Championship game loss against Seattle.
With 5:13 left in the fourth quarter and Green Bay leading, 19-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw over the middle, and Micah Hyde forced a deflection off the hands of Jermaine Kearse and into the arms of Morgan Burnett. Burnett intentionally slid to the ground, encouraged by Peppers with the now-infamous “no mas” signal.
The belief: Green Bay could milk the clock from here and didn’t need to risk a return, though Burnett had a ton of room to run and could have even scored a knockout touchdown on the play.
The Packers went three-and-out on the ensuing series and gave the ball back for the first of two quick scoring drives by Seattle.
There’s also the matter of Peppers playing four excellent seasons for the rival Bears, although Green Bay got the last laugh there. Peppers was part of the 2010 Bears team that the Packers defeated in the NFC Championship game en route to the Super Bowl crown.
In fact, Peppers went only 1-8 with the Bears against the Packers (counting the postseason). The final battle came in 2013, when Green Bay famously defeated Chicago on the final day of the regular season to win the NFC North on a late Randall Cobb touchdown. Pay attention to John Kuhn's block that kept Peppers from disrupting the play.
In the next three years with the Packers, Peppers played in 49 games and posted two interceptions, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 14 passes defended, 74 solo tackles and 25 sacks. Pretty impressive for a player in his age 34-36 seasons.