For months, teammates talked about their respect and admiration. Julius Peppers earned instant reverence when he arrived in Green Bay. Nobody inside the Packers' locker room questioned the future Hall of Famer's credibility.
That goes for fellow defensive captain Morgan Burnett.
When the fifth-year safety intercepted Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on Sunday, he had nothing but open field in front of him. With Green Bay holding onto a 19-7 lead and five minutes left in the NFC championship game, Burnett had an opportunity to put his team in position to score more points. As he turned upfield, Burnett saw Peppers flash the universal stop sign.
He knew what to do.
"The 'no mas' signal," Burnett said Monday morning. "That means get down."
Burnett laid no blame at Peppers' feet. Rather, the safety said he didn't regret the decision, even if everything began to crumble shortly after in the Packers' shocking 28-22 overtime loss to the Seahawks.
"I don't take nothing back that I did," Burnett said. "It's easy to sit here after it happens, to sit here and say you should've done this or should've done that. If the outcome was different, we wouldn't even be talking about it."
Once he slid, Burnett was soon greeted with a celebratory hug from fellow safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. This was supposed to be the game clincher. Afterward, several Seahawks remembered watching the Packers begin to relax on the sideline.
Burnett stood by his decision to slide because it's what defensive backs are taught to do late in the game. If a win is in sight, cornerback Tramon Williams said, the defense's job is to return the football to the offense. From there, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and company is entrusted to grind out the clock.
"The main focus, I was just trying to secure the catch," Burnett said, "and when I got the ball in my hand, the main thing was just gaining possession of the ball, and then like I said, I got the 'no mas' signal. That means no more, don't return it. Just go and get down and secure the possession of the ball and give our offense the ball."
Burnett said he hadn't seen the film yet, but he planned to watch it. When he does, he'll see one the best performances on his career. Burnett finished with a team-high 10 tackles, three for loss and two sacks.
His interception was supposed to be his signature moment. Instead, the play may be remembered more for what could have been.
"At that point in time," Burnett said, "it's late in the game. That play was an interception. It's not like that was the determining factor in the game. We had a lot of things go on throughout the course of the game.
"If we come away with the win, we wouldn't even be sitting here talking about that. It's nothing that I would change or nothing that I would take back."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood