His return to Chicago, he said before the game, was nothing more than a business trip. And he was happy that the Green Bay Packers took care of that business with a 38-17 victory over the team for which he starred the past four seasons.
“I mean, anything as far as sentimental or emotional or anything like that, no, but as far as us needing a division road win, it means everything,” Peppers said.
Whether Peppers would return as hero or villain was made clear from the get-go. On the first play of the game, he combined with Jamari Lattimore to tackle Matt Forte. A good chunk of the 61,736 fans at Soldier Field booed.
“Yeah, I heard it,” Peppers said.
Did it bother him?
“I don’t care about that, man,” Peppers said. “What do you expect?”
Peppers’ teammates sensed this game meant a bit more than he was letting on.
“He’s such a cool, laid-back guy, you would never know he really cared about it or not,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Any time someone comes from a different team or whatnot, you know they care about if they go back into that place and get a win. We definitely wanted to win for him, but we also wanted to put up a better performance.”
Peppers is one of the quieter players on the team. As defensive coordinator Dom Capers joked this week, if you want to have a conversation with Peppers, you had better be the one initiating it. However, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he sensed Peppers taking a “bigger leadership role” this week.
“He did with his body language,” Rodgers said. “If you know Pep, he’s not a big talker. I think we all knew it meant something to him to come back. Now, he actually talked a little this week when I talked to him about (playing) Carolina (in 2011 and 2012) -- he spent more time in Carolina than he did here in Chicago. But, no, it meant something. We all wanted to put a good effort forward.”
This one won’t go in Peppers’ personal highlight reel. He finished with two tackles and missed a chance to sack Jay Cutler – though that wouldn’t have counted after a dubious hands-to-the-face penalty. It was the best pressure of the day for the player who ranks third among active players with 119.5 career sacks. Still, it was a critical victory for the Packers to get to 2-2.
“We were able to hold them to 17 and we got the takeaways when we needed them, so that was big for us.”
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