NFC South: Jason Peter

Aside from paddling my kayak around the prettiest lake in Pennsylvania and trying to get myself in shape for training camps, I did a fair amount of reading while I was off.

Among the books I picked up, two had ties to the NFC South. The first was “Hero of the Underground’’ by Jason Peter. You may remember Peter as the defensive end the Carolina Panthers took with their first-round pick in 1998.

Although Peter gets his life together in the end, this is not really a feel-good story and the language and subject matter makes it tough to recommend for younger readers. But it’s a pretty fascinating book and it’s not really about football.

Peter talks significantly about his college playing days at Nebraska, but once he gets to his time with the Panthers, the theme starts to change. In great detail, Peter explained how he got hooked on pain killers while with the Panthers and also experimented with illegal drugs.

Other than a very humane sendoff by coach George Seifert, who never showed much public personality in his time in Carolina, there’s nothing real enlightening about the Panthers. This book is more about Peter’s deep spiral into drug abuse after Seifert told him his injured body couldn’t hold up anymore.

After football, Peter lived in New York and Los Angeles. He writes that he continued to abuse pain killers and got heavily involved with cocaine and heroin. At one point, Peter wrote, he tried to kill himself.

I had seen an item on HBO’s Real Sports where Peter talked about his addictions. I covered his final three seasons in Carolina and don’t claim to know Peter well because he often wasn’t around due to a whole bunch of different injuries. But, when Peter was around, he seemed like a decent guy and there were no indications of major problems other than his injuries.

Peter makes some broad statements about how prevalent pain pills are in NFL locker rooms. I’ve got no reason to doubt him, but that’s a can of worms for another place and time. Bottom line, Peter wasted a few years of his life buried deep in drugs. But, after several unsuccessful attempts at rehab, Peter said he got clean and he’s done some work as a radio host.

The other book with NFC South ties I read was “A Few Seconds of Panic’’ by Stefan Fatsis. I should say I scanned the book and will read it in its entirety at some point. But what I was scanning for were the parts involving Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina’s former punter, who is one of the most entertaining and unique people I’ve ever met. Fatsis is a reporter who got permission to go through the preseason as a kicker with Denver when Sauerbrun was with the Broncos. Kickers and punters have to spend a lot of time together and Fatsis shares some Sauerbrun tales.

Some of Sauerbrun’s antics through the years have been humorous and this book includes a few new anecdotes. But it also shows a serious side of Sauerbrun, as he stands up and addresses the Broncos after being suspended for four games for taking a dietary supplement. In this instance, Sauerbrun, who often has been described as cocky and unfiltered, is humble and says all the right things.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just happened to stumble across this article about the biggest defensive draft busts in NFL history. Sad to say, the NFC South is pretty well represented.

The Saints got Alex Molden and Jonathan Sullivan on the first team and linebacker Keith McCants made it for the Buccaneers.

The NFC South made up 75 percent of the secondary with Carolina's Rashard Anderson and Atlanta's Bruce Pickens joining Molden. Can't really argue with any of the other selections.

But I can think of a few other NFC South draft busts that were no slouches. In fact, I'd nominate Carolina's Jason Peter and Tampa Bay's Booker Reese and Broderick Thomas as tremendous slouches. I also think Atlanta defensive end Jamaal Anderson is about one more disappointing season away from a spot on this list.

I'm sure I'm overlooking some more defensive draft busts. Fire away if you've got some more.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Now that Vonnie Holliday is available, wouldn't it make sense for the Carolina Panthers to bring in the defensive end?

That's something that should have happened over a decade ago. It seemed like a sure thing in 1998 that Holliday, a defensive end who went to college at North Carolina and grew up in South Carolina, would be Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick.

It seemed so obvious that even former Carolina personnel guru Dom Anile publicly said he'd be dancing in the streets if Holliday was available when the Panthers picked. Turned out Holliday was available.

But the Panthers, somehow, decided to draft Nebraska defensive end Jason Peter. That turned out to be one of the worst moves in Carolina history -- and the Panthers have had more than their share of bad ones, especially in their early years.

Peter was plagued by injuries and off-field problems and never developed into much. Holliday, who was drafted by Green Bay, hasn't had a spectacular career, but he has been a solid player. Imagine what he might have done if Carolina had taken him?

Well, it's a completely different situation now. But it could be more than a little ironic if Holliday ends up in Carolina after all these years. Don't rule it out. The Panthers like to bring players from the Carolinas home and they have a need at defensive end with the Julius Peppers' situation still up in the air. Also, at this point in his career, Holliday doesn't command a big salary and that could be attractive to the salary cap-strapped Panthers.

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