Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers is a nine-time Pro Bowler, the NFL’s active sacks leader and a future Hall of Famer.
And he might be coming off the bench Sunday in San Francisco.
Peppers, 37, who signed a one-year deal during the offseason to return to Carolina, is listed as a second-teamer on the depth chart, behind veteran Charles Johnson and speed rusher Mario Addison. Panthers coach Ron Rivera hasn’t said who will start, but the team plans to use a liberal rotation with all four of their ends (Wes Horton is the other).
“It really doesn’t matter because we all do the same. We’re all quick. We’re all strong. We’re all fast,” Addison said Tuesday. “Whoever’s in there is going to get the job done.”
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The Panthers were cautious with Peppers’ reps during the preseason, and he missed about a week with a hip injury. Peppers came off the bench in five games in 2016 during his final season in Green Bay.
Rivera echoed Addison’s comments about not caring much about who starts.
“At the end of the day it’s finding out who’s going to make the plays. That’s probably the more important thing,” he said. “But if we can share the reps and keep them fresh, I think that will be more important, especially down the stretch.”
Addison, who had a team-best and career-high 9.5 sacks last season, says he’s not sure if he’ll be in the starting lineup or not.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “But if they throw me in that fire, I’m going to bring that fire.”