Originally created 05/04/02

Peppers gets bloody lip, lots of advice in Carolina debut



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Julius Peppers ended his first day in the NFL with a bloody lip and an earful of advice from the veterans.

Peppers, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, made his debut with the Carolina Panthers during Friday's first session of a three-day minicamp.

The defensive end learned that his game needs some work and if he doesn't adjust to the speed of the NFL quickly, Friday's bloody lip will be the first of many.

"Yeah, I got my lip busted," Peppers said, claiming he had no idea who popped him in the mouth.

"The game was a lot faster than I expected. But I think I did pretty good. I've still got a lot to learn, though."

He's got an entire defensive unit reminding him of that.

As he walked off the field following the day's second session, defensive tackle Sean Gilbert stuck close by chatting to Peppers, one of many conversations of the day for Peppers.

"Everyone has something to say about the little things," Peppers said. "I haven't played football since December. You forget some things when you're not playing every day, so it was mainly the basics they told me, where to go, where to put your hands, stuff like that.

"It's been pretty good I think. I try to stay to myself, but everybody speaks. Everybody's been real friendly trying to help me along."

Why wouldn't they? Peppers is supposed to be one of the key ingredients to Carolina improving on last year's 1-15 season.

He was considered one of the best athletes in the draft and is expected to be the pass-rusher the Panthers have long been without.

The two-sport star from North Carolina has already been given a challenge by his employers, who put him on the left side of the line. Peppers played on the right side for the Tar Heels, but coaches don't expect him to struggle with the switch.

"Some guys, it's a big difference. With him, it didn't look like it was at all," said line coach Mike Trgovac. "We think he's going to be a big physical fast guy that can run on the left side. He's a prototype left end.

"When people try to start knocking him off the ball, he's going to become a good run player. He's not there yet, but he's not as bad as some people said he is, but he'll be a good run player in there."

Peppers reported to minicamp at 285 pounds, and the Panthers expect him to be even bigger when training camp opens in July.

"He's going to be 300 pounds without trying," Trgovac said. "I don't want him to try to put on a lot of weight. He doesn't need to. I think it'll just come on him naturally. I think he's naturally going to get bigger as he starts lifting and gets a little bit older."

Peppers won't put any number on what he'd like to weigh, let alone the amount of sacks he believes he needs for his rookie season to be a success.

"I don't have any goals. I'm just trying to get better right now," he said. "I don't even know what to expect out of myself yet. So I'm just trying to get better as I go."