- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The staff sent Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers home last week due to him exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but apparently he hadn’t fully recovered by Sunday when the team defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-30.
Peppers came into the matchup with only one tackle and no sacks on the season, and contributed only one more tackle against Minnesota as the club struggled to consistently apply pressure on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
“He was not healthy yesterday, probably sicker yesterday than he was the previous days,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He tried. He wouldn’t say it, but in his defense, I don’t know that he had the energy to play as hard as he possibly could play.”
Peppers restructured his contract on Sept. 3 to create more salary-cap room for the team by converting $3 million of his base salary of $12.9 million into a signing bonus, which knocked his base salary in 2013 to $9.9 million. That move created $2 million in cap space for the Bears, and reduced his cap charge from $16.387 million this season to $14.387 million.
But in the final two years of Peppers’ deal, his cap numbers rise. In 2014, Peppers’ cap number grows from $17.183 million to $18.183 million. In 2015, Peppers’ cap number grows to $20.683 million.
Peppers has racked up 30.5 sacks in three seasons with the Bears, including back-to-back years in which he’s contributed 11 sacks or more. It’s still too early in the season to predict a decline for Peppers, but through the first two games, the contributions (two tackles) haven’t been up to the defensive end’s standards.
Through the first two games of last season, Peppers had already tallied two sacks.
“He was involved, ran some plays down (against the Vikings),” Trestman said. “But overall, he wasn’t getting better at the time. He didn’t look well to me this morning when I saw him in the meeting. He’s not going to admit it.”
Said teammate Lance Briggs, "No, I’m not concerned. He missed a lot of practice last week because he’s been really sick and under the weather. One thing I’m not worried about is Julius Peppers.”