You know what’s weird about this whole Julius Peppers-Jordan Gross thing? Neither one of them ever touches the ball.
The amount of money and time and newspaper ink and computer blogs devoted to these two guys has been nothing short of amazing ever since Carolina’s season ended, and there’s no end in sight (read Tom Sorensen's "Tom Talks" blog here about the fact that Peppers only will accept a trade to 4 unnamed teams).
Even if Carolina does franchise star defensive end Peppers as expected by 4 p.m. Thursday – and I certainly would, no matter what happens with Gross – that doesn’t mean it’s over. It only means that we’ve entered another phase of the “Let’s Trade Julius” sweepstakes, which isn't going to be any easy matter given all the issues involved and the limited playing field Peppers will accept. The Panthers must have Peppers' help in negotiating the trade because he would have to negotiate a contract with the new team -- his old one expires later this month.
So, all this attention (which I certainly admit adding to) for two guys who never gained an actual yard in 2008. Not that they aren't Pro Bowlers -- they are -- but it's just amazing the amount of attention a good lineman can generate given the NFL vacuum of news these days.
Did you realize that Peppers had neither an interception nor a fumble recovery in 2008? Hilee Taylor recovered a fumble for Carolina in 2008. So did Tyler Brayton. So did Adam Seward and Dante Wesley (twice). Not Peppers.
Peppers did have five forced fumbles and 14.5 sacks, but I defy you to name more than 2-3 of them. They weren't particularly memorable. And the best-known play in which Peppers actually ran with the ball in the NFL came so long ago that the quarterback Peppers stole it from (Michael Vick) is now in jail. Carolina long ago stopped trying to throw the ball to him on offense -- an interesting experiment that failed.
And Gross? The only time the genial offensive tackle ever touches the ball is when Jake Delhomme fumbles it. He’s one of those anonymous linemen who is bemoaned by fans during the year for his occasional false starts and then praised lavishly in the offseason, to the point where paying him $8 million a year would suddenly seem like a bargain to many.
The NFL is a fantasy world, of course. The Panthers organization laid off 20 people this week, but the contracts Gross and Peppers will sign sometime in the next few days or months will undoubtedly surpass the salaries of those 20 people combined.
And, like Peppers and Gross, none of those people who got fired gained a single yard last season, either.