Sometimes it seems six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers would rather get double-teamed and held by both blockers than talk about himself, but his teammates are more than willing to weigh in on the topic.
Earlier this week, Peppers was named the NFC's defensive player of the month for November, based on his four sacks, three pass breakups and 10 quarterback pressures. Peppers is tied for sixth in the NFC with eight sacks, including six in his last six games and two last week vs. the Raiders.
"Last week, if you watched any of the game, every single play he was dominating whoever was against him," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "So that (award) was well deserved. It's nice to see people taking notice of what he's been doing. Sacks haven't been a huge number, but he gets double-teamed. When he doesn't get double-teamed, you see what happens, like last week, he just dominated those guys."
At 6-7 and 287 pounds, Peppers has movement skills that defensive backs envy. As a freshman at North Carolina, where he started 33 games and had 30.5 sacks in three years, he also was a top reserve on the Final Four basketball team. At 290 pounds, he ran a 4.68 40 at the Combine. In high school, Peppers was a member of the North Carolina State championship 4x200 relay team.
DE Julius Peppers
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"The guy is a monster," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "When you stand in the huddle next to Peppers, he stands out. I can only imagine what it was like when he was in high school and (being) the guy who was going against him as you prepare for him and you watch him on film. That had to kind of suck for the guy."
As impressive as LeBron James looked playing flag football against Kevin Durant recently, it doesn't compare to what Peppers was able to do on a basketball court.
"I've seen some film of him playing basketball," Briggs said, "and he looks a lot better playing basketball than LeBron does playing football. I'm just saying. He's a big athlete, and Peppers is a max effort guy. You put that plus the talent that he has, he's a dominant force in the NFL."
Peppers was stuck for a reaction when told of Briggs' evaluation. While he realizes he's had a wealth of physical riches bestowed upon him, the game doesn't come as easy to him as he sometimes makes it look.
"I was blessed with a tremendous amount of athletic ability, so sports in general have come easy," Peppers said. "But the game is a work in progress. You have to come out and do things right and try to be exact all the time."
Playing on the opposite end of the line from Peppers, Bears left end Israel Idonije doesn't get much chance to watch him during games. But he gets a great appreciation of Peppers' talents when the defense watches film of the previous week's game.
"He just literally is throwing guys all over the place," Idonije said. "I mean throwing tackles, tight ends, it doesn't matter who he's lined up against. He has his way with those guys. It's just incredible to watch. It's not just one play but a consistent showcase of technique and ability."
For part of the season, the Bears' defensive line has underachieved, and even Peppers has had times when he didn't make a big difference. But he believes the D-line has made progress.
"We've been doing better," he said. "Coach (defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli) has been pushing us harder to get better and improve. We've been coming out and working harder trying to do that. We've got a ways to go, but we've come a little ways."
The soft-spoken Marinelli isn't prone to hyperbole, but his evaluation of Peppers' two-sack performance vs. the Raiders borders on gushing.
"The numbers don't talk about what he did," Marinelli said. "It was the intensity of the game he played at; the speed. My God, the details of his pass rush.
"Forget the sacks, some of the rushes where the ball came out quick, they were some of the prettiest rushes you'd ever want to see; just beautiful. The skill, the technique, the work habit; he's starting to really come on right now. It ignites everybody else around him."
That's bad news this week for a Chiefs offense that has inexperienced Tyler Palko and recently acquired Kyle Orton at quarterback and is 27th in passing yards, 29th in interceptions and 21st in sacks allowed.
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