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Friday, March 5, 2010
Why Peppers might shine in Chicago

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Our John Clayton is reporting the Bears and Julius Peppers are in the final stages of putting a contract together.

My take on this one? There are no guarantees when it comes to Peppers, but I think he put himself in the best possible situation.

Peppers had a very good career in Carolina, but never was able to dominate as consistently as fans and the Panthers would have liked. More importantly, Peppers never was able to dominate as consistently as he would have liked.

Say what you want about him taking plays off – there might have been some underlying reasons for all that. But, in his own unique way, I believe Peppers is a guy with a lot of pride. From the limited hints he gave out, I think part of the reason he wanted out of Carolina was because he hadn’t achieved greatness there and felt he never would.

I believe there were some issues between Peppers and the coaching staff through the years. At some point along the way, I think he stopped buying completely into the program and was resisting the message he was getting from the franchise – maybe even running away from what the Panthers wanted him to be. That’s not a fun position to be in.

People say John Fox is a players’ coach and I think that’s true to some degree. But I don’t think, at least in recent years, the relationship between Fox (and his staff) and Peppers was as good as either side would have liked.

Think it might have scored a few points when Lovie Smith flew into Charlotte last night just to fly back to Chicago with Peppers? Think the prospect of playing for defensive line guru Rod Marinelli might have been very intriguing to Peppers?

All that had to weigh heavily to a guy who was coming out of a situation where he wasn’t happy. This is a chance for a fresh start for Peppers and I’m not just talking about on the football field.

For most people, being Julius Peppers in Charlotte would have been a dream come true. But Peppers isn’t like most people. He’s shy and extremely private. He despises being the center of attention. Pure geography dictated that Peppers was under the microscope the whole time he was in Charlotte. After all, he was a local kid and a No. 2 overall pick.

Peppers is going to be under the microscope in Chicago – for a day or two. That could be a big difference and could be a reason why this new marriage may work. Chicago’s very different from Charlotte and that’s not meant as a slap or a compliment to either city. It’s just a fact.

Chicago is a city where they’ve also got the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks. There are a lot of spotlights out there and one will shine on Peppers, but it won’t be nearly as big or constant as the one he had on him in Charlotte. The Panthers really are the only game in Charlotte. NASCAR'S important, but the NBA franchises that have come and gone and come again aren't nearly as important as the Panthers.

Even in the Bears’ locker room, there are lightning rods (Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler, just to name two) to take attention away from Peppers.

Yeah, I know this all may sound weird. But, like I’ve said, Peppers isn’t like most people.

Maybe, by finally getting out of the intense spotlight, Peppers can truly shine.