In a conference call with reporters ahead of his return to Charlotte on Sunday with the Chicago Bears, Peppers said he was under the impression the Panthers decided to "do away with anybody who is making a significant amount of money" as part of a roster overhaul that has produced the NFL's youngest team.
"That's a business decision. I can understand and respect that," said Peppers, who's 30. "The problem that I had was they tried to turn the tables and make it look like I wanted out no matter what. Really, I didn't have the option to stay. It was never offered to stay."
"So when I say it ended a little sour, I felt like it could have been a little more respectful. At least a phone call to say, 'It's been good. We're going in a different direction. We're going to let you go.' They couldn't even give me that."
Hurney didn't return a message seeking comment, releasing only a short statement that didn't address Peppers' criticism of the Panthers.
"Julius gave us eight great years and we appreciate everything he did for us," Hurney said.
Peppers, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Panthers, signed a six-year, $91.5 million deal with the Bears in March. While he said he's happy in Chicago -- he has two sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal for the Bears (3-1) -- he's puzzled with how things ended in Charlotte.
"I was kind of surprised because I was expecting to hear something from them," Peppers said. "I didn't understand what was going on. But as the weeks and the months went by, I started getting the picture of the direction they were going in and I knew I wasn't a part of it."
Now Peppers, a Bailey, N.C., native who starred in college in North Carolina, will return home Sunday to play the struggling Panthers (0-4) for the first time. After the two years of rocky contract negotiations, Peppers said he has "no idea" how he'll be received by fans.
But Peppers clearly was frustrated at the perception he doesn't play hard on every down. The reputation has stayed with him since college and was fueled by games in Carolina in which the freakishly athletic Peppers had little impact.
"I just see that as people not being able to form an opinion for themselves," Peppers said. "People will hear one thing and just run with it. ... A couple people started saying it for whatever reason, and then it followed me. And then people just kept repeating it, even though it wasn't true."
Peppers, who also ranks first in Panthers history with 29 forced fumbles and nine blocked kicks, is proud of his time with the team despite the criticism and messy ending.
"Look at a guy like Dwight Freeney, who had (84) sacks or whatever it was in eight seasons. I'm right there behind him at 81," Peppers said. "If people look at the numbers and stop just making up stuff about how I played, you'll realize I've done well and really I think I exceeded expectations when I was brought to that team."
Notes:Panthers WR Steve Smith was on crutches in the locker room after missing practice with a high ankle sprain. Smith is expected to miss at least one game. ... Safety Sherrod Martin (concussion) sat out practice, but he is holding out hope that he'll be cleared to play Sunday. ... RB DeAngelo Williams (illness) and RT Jeff Otah (knee) didn't practice, and LB Jamar Williams (neck) was limited. ... The first court appearance for WR Dwayne Jarrett, cut by the Panthers on Tuesday after he was charged with driving while impaired, was postponed from Wednesday to Nov. 12.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press