Julius Peppers knows that homecomings can be unpredictable affairs. The defensive end is heading back to his home state for Sunday's game against the Panthers, which is certain to stir up mixed emotions for a North Carolina native who was a two-sport star for the Tar Hells before beginning his pro career with Charlotte's resident NFL franchise.
"Before the game, leading up to it, those emotions, you have to keep them in check," Peppers said. "But once the game starts you have to play the game. All the other stuff doesn't really matter once the ball is snapped. But before the game, I'm not going to sit here and say I won't have a lot of thoughts and emotions going through [my head] because that's the reality of it."
That said, Peppers said his transition to the Bears has been seamless both on and off the field. He has no regrets.
"This is not a new thing for me," he said when asked if it's difficult dealing with the double teams and chip-blocks that Bears opponents have used in an attempt to neutralize him this season. "This didn't just start happening once I got here. I've been dealing with this my whole career, so I'm used to it and I pretty much know what teams are going to do against the better D-ends. It's a normal thing now. I don't pay any attention to it."
Peppers isn't sure what kind of reaction he would get from the Carolina crowd. If they boo, he'll understand.
"That's what fans do," he said. "That's why they come to the game. It's part of the game. They're there to boo the opposing team and I'm not part of the team anymore. I understand that."
Peppers said he still keeps in touch with many of his former teammates but doesn't think his familiarity with the Panthers' offensive linemen and their familiarity with him will have any impact on the game.
He knows his old team well enough to they will try to test the Bears' run defense, however.
"That's what they always do," he said. "That's what they are known for. Coach Fox has done a great job since he's been there establishing that running game and playing great defense. I don't expect them to do anything differently than what they always do."