Charlotte, NC- Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers won the The Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award despite missing the last 4 games on the season due to a NFL suspension, for violating the league's drug policy. He took a dietary supplement that contained a banned substance that lead to his suspension.
Peppers is the first Carolina Panther to win this award and was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft in April. Peppers in 12 games had 12 sacks, second among rookies to Colts end Dwight Freeney who had 13 but played in all 16 games. Peppers received 25 votes for the award and Freeney was next with 14.
"When I first came into this season, I felt that I had a chance to win this award if I played up to my potential and did what I knew I could do," Peppers said. "I was never focused on winning individual awards. I just tried to help the team out and do all that I could do.
Peppers thought that his suspension would hurt his chances at winning the award.
"Because it seemed like everyone had forgotten me, because I wasn't able to play in the last four games," said Peppers. "It feels good to win this award because it means that people noticed what I did this year."