Julius Peppers excited to play with Clay Matthews

Julius Peppers has been the highest-paid defensive player in football, a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award and an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.

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As accomplished as Peppers' 12-year career has been, one thing he has never enjoyed is a talented edge-rushing sidekick. That will change now that he's playing opposite Clay Matthews with the Green Bay Packers.

"I haven't really played with a guy like Clay, really, my whole career," Peppers said, via ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde. "Early in my career I played with a guy, Mike Rucker, who was a threat on the other side. But like, a really dominant player on the outside? I really haven't had that -- ever. I'm excited to get out there with him and see what he can do."

Peppers will have to exercise patience. Matthews expects to be full-go for training camp, but he has yet to participate in offseason practices while recovering from December tendon-transfer surgery in his thumb.

The Packers have high hopes for Peppers -- whom they firmly believe is still in his prime -- in the "elephant" role, which plays outside linebacker, defensive end and even inside depending on the down and distance.

The team has even bigger plans for Matthews in a new, covert defensive scheme.

"With the plans they see me having this year and the type of player they see me becoming, I think it's great the changes that we're putting in -- not only with the personnel, (but also) the scheme," Matthews explained. "I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's a shot in the arm and will provide kind of a little rejuvenation to this team, especially to the defensive side of this locker room."

With Matthews and Peppers coming off the edge, Datone Jones and Mike Daniels emerging at defensive end and several major reinforcements for the secondary, Dom Capers' defense might just be the NFL's most improved unit this season.

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