Julius Peppers not thinking he might play his final game Sunday

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Julius Peppers isn’t thinking he might play the final game of his career Sunday. Instead, the Panthers veteran defensive end is working to make sure the team has another game next week.

“It’ll be a time to think about that,” Peppers said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “It’ll be a period of reflection at some point. Right now the focus is on the game this Sunday. I’m not really looking past this week as far as future plans.”

Peppers, 37, signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal to return to the team that drafted him in 2002. He thus becomes a free agent in the offseason.

Peppers proved he still has something left in the tank, tying for the team lead with 11 sacks. He has 154.5 in his career.

The Panthers have kept Peppers fresh by holding him out of practice since late in the season and monitoring his snaps all season.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera hopes Peppers’ career doesn’t end when Carolina’s season ends, whenever that is.

“I’d love for him to come back. Absolutely,” Rivera said. “I know we’ve managed [him], and we’ll do whatever we need to. But it’s all up to him. He’s having a very good year. Who knows? Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

Peppers will play his 19th career postseason game Sunday, fifth among active players.