Julius Peppers said he’ll have to make a decision on his football future in the offseason.
The Green Bay Packers veteran outside linebacker said Saturday he was “not sure” whether he’ll return for 15th NFL season in 2016. Peppers will turn 36 years old Monday, an age where many elite pass rushers are well into their decline.
“We'll talk about that when it's time,” Peppers said after the Packers’ 26-20 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoff round.
Peppers turned back the clock this season, finishing with 10.5 sacks in 16 games. It was his most sacks in a season since he had 11.5 with the Chicago Bears in 2012. Peppers had one sack and five quarterback hurries Saturday night against the Cardinals.
He also may have been at least partially responsible for Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard catch on the first play of overtime. Peppers decided to rush Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, vacating the zone where Fitzgerald caught the pass. Peppers confirmed he was supposed to be in coverage on the play.
Peppers was dejected when speaking with reporters in the University of Phoenix Stadium visiting locker room after the game.
“Nah,” Peppers said, “I can't explain it emotionally right now.”
Peppers appeared to have plenty of high-quality football left this season. His pass-rush explosion off the edge was especially important for the Packers defense. With Peppers pressuring the quarterback, the Packers were able to keep Clay Matthews at inside linebacker exclusively without a diminished pass rush.
Still, Peppers has long said he’ll decide on his future during the offseason. He will command a costly cap hit next season, though it’ll be less than this past year. He’s scheduled to count $10.5 million against the cap in 2016. He counted $12 million against the cap in 2015.
It’s clear Peppers’ teammates want him to return. He’s been a solid locker room presence since he arrived in Green Bay, voted a playoff captain by teammates in both of his seasons with the Packers.
“We voted him captain for a reason,” defensive end Mike Daniels said. “He does all the right things. He truly shows you how to carry yourself on and off the field. I’m just very happy that I had an opportunity to play with him, and hopefully we can get it done for him.
“He has everything but a Super Bowl ring. You talk about fighting for someone else, other than yourself, and that’s a classic example. We all want to make sure we play our best and get it done for him.”
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Weston Hodkiewicz contributed to this report