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The Daily Tar Heel

Peppers Could Face NFL Suspension

The test was first reported on The Charlotte Observer's Web site.

A source close to Peppers, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that report and said that steroids were not involved.

The rookie defensive lineman should be able to play Sunday against Tampa Bay while the NFL continues its investigation.

"My understanding is he will be our starting left defensive end this Sunday and all of my focus -- and his, too -- is on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said coach John Fox.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, citing league rules, would not comment on Peppers' situation. Marvin Demoff, Peppers' agent, did not immediately return calls from the Associated Press.

A second test on the initial urine sample will be done in the next few days, and if that comes back positive, Peppers would have 10 days to appeal the findings.

Peppers practiced with the Panthers (3-6) on Thursday, but did not make himself available to reporters.

Panthers linebacker Mark Fields said Peppers told him he plans to appeal if suspended.

"It's not that serious, so we're not looking at it like it's that serious," Fields said. "We're playing Tampa Bay Sunday, and he's playing."

Peppers was the second overall pick in the draft out of North Carolina, and leads the NFL with 10 sacks.

If the league suspends him for four games, it would cost him about $235,000 from the seven-year, $62 million contract he signed in July. Peppers is the highest-paid player in Panthers history.

Another Panthers defensive lineman, Brentson Buckner, was suspended Nov. 4 for four games for violating the league's policy on steroids and related substances.

George Mavrikes, Buckner's agent, said his client took a dietary substance in training camp to help him lose weight. It contained one of the substances now banned by the league.

"If we lose Pep, that would be a tremendous blow to our defense," Fields said. "The next guy would have to step it up. Would he be the same? Probably not."

Peppers' coach last year at UNC, John Bunting, said he supported his former player 100 percent.

"Julius would not do anything to jeopardize his family, himself or the Panthers' organization."

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