Packers still counting on 36-year-old Peppers to produce
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) No matter what the plan is for Julius Peppers this season, the expectations aren't changing for the oldest player on the Green Bay Packers roster.
''It's not like we're going to put him out to pasture or sit him over on the bench a whole lot,'' general manager Ted Thompson said Wednesday.
Peppers is beginning his 15th NFL season; whether this will be the final one for the 36-year-old defensive stalwart isn't known.
Of more immediate attention, as the Packers prepare to play their first preseason game Friday night against the Cleveland Browns, is just what role Peppers will have when the season starts in a month.
Peppers is listed as a starter on the depth chart this week. But another former first-round draft pick, Nick Perry, not Peppers, has been taking most of the reps at the outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews in Green Bay's base defense early in training camp.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said reining in Peppers has been by design.
''I think we know what Julius is capable of, so you'll probably see limited reps of Julius with where he is,'' Capers said. ''You've seen that through training camp thus far, so it's enabled Nick to get a lot of reps. We have a number of guys there that we need to see and take a good look at.''
While Perry is relishing the extra work as he looks to put an injury-marred first four pro seasons behind him, Peppers isn't saying much about the apparent role reversal. In fact, he hasn't spoken to reporters in the locker room since the first couple of days of camp, which opened July 26.
Peppers declined to talk as he walked out of the locker room after practice Wednesday.
As long as he can stay healthy, which he's been since the team's offseason program in the spring for the first time in his career, Perry is expected to have a bigger role in Green Bay's defense this season.
''He's a physical guy, very good player against the run, and he can use that physicality and size, and he's got a couple pass-rush moves that he's very good at,'' Capers said.
Perry has yet to play a full season, but the Packers saw enough production at the end of last season to re-sign him to a one-year contract.
''This is home for me,'' said Perry, who led Green Bay with 3 + sacks in its two playoff games. ''For those guys to believe in me and know that I've got more to give, it just puts everything in perspective on what's to come. There's unfinished business here, and we're just trying to get to that.''
As for Peppers, the Packers are hopeful he will remain as productive as ever, even if his role is diminished.
''He's a marvelous player and a very gifted, athletic specimen, the likes of which I don't know that I've ever seen,'' Thompson said.
Peppers had a team-high 10 + sacks last season, moving him to No. 9 on the NFL's all-time sacks list with 136. He also was selected to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time.
Thompson wouldn't say whether the team will try to maximize Peppers' production in the final year of a three-year, $26 million contract by reducing his workload.
''I think certainly you can make that argument that that would be a logical conclusion,'' Thompson said. ''I don't know. I think it just kind of depends. I think you pick your spots and you use players that are extraordinary, which Julius is, in a certain way.''
NOTES: Matthews (ankle) and WR Randall Cobb (calf) were held out of the Packers' final open practice before Friday's game. Among those still sidelined were QB Brett Hundley (ankle), LB Jake Ryan (hamstring) and C JC Tretter (illness). . Long snapper Jesse Schmitt watched practice with a cast on his broken right hand. Schmitt suffered the injury while making a block on his first snap in a punt drill in his first practice with the team Tuesday night. The Packers signed Schmitt, an undrafted rookie from Purdue, to compete with incumbent Rick Lovato. Schmitt didn't know if surgery would be needed.
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