Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers announced his retirement from the NFL after 17 seasons with Carolina, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
The 39-year-old is fourth on the NFL’s all-time sack list (159.5) behind three Hall of Famers: Kevin Greene (160), Bruce Smith (198) and Reggie White (200).
Peppers released a video Friday, thanking fans and supporters along the way for a journey that started when the Panthers drafted him second overall in 2002.
“Thank you. For the victories and the good times. For the lessons and the times we desired more. For the sacrifices, the belief, the confidence and the unwavering support — I’m thankful. Because without you, this wasn’t possible. Thank you for the spirit, the resolve and the attitude to Keep Pounding. It’s not something we just say around here, it’s how we live. I’m thankful for the things you showed me about life that were bigger than football and for a second chance — a new beginning.
“See, the players, we come and we go, but the constant is you. And as the saying goes, ‘Once a Panther, always a Panther.’ Thank you for the memories, the friendships, the laughs and the culture we created. For the understanding and for being family. Thanks for all the years, and cheers. And for being home now and forever.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about this journey. It was the best teacher I’ve ever had and was everything I could’ve hoped for. The tough times never lasted and the tough people inspired me to be better and give more. I hope I did the same. Only time can reveal what’s next, but my time here is up. No regrets, no looking back and nothing left to give. It’s not goodbye, it’s kinda like, ‘I’ll see you later.’ But until then I’m grateful, I’m satisfied and at peace with all that comes next.”
Peppers played in the final 176 consecutive games in his career. With 266 games played, he’s sixth among defensive players in NFL history in that category.
“Julius is one of the greatest to ever play the game of football,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “To put up the numbers he did for as long as he did speaks to his incredible talent and commitment. He is a leader in the locker room and in the community.