BOURBONNAIS | Please don't call Julius Peppers "old."
Mount Rushmore is old.
The pyramids are really, really old.
But mention age to the Bears' imposing defensive end, in his 13th season, and the 6-foot-7, 287-pounder will laugh it off rather than pick you up and throw you into the middle of next week.
"Old? Not at all and I'm serious," Peppers said. "I feel like I'm 25. Age is just a number that gets put on players. It's really about how you feel in your heart and your mind.
"I feel young in those places and I think it's showing."
Peppers' career stats don't scream Fountain of Youth but seem to support his claim.
He has started 168 of 170 regular season games and has had 10 sacks or more in eight of his 12 seasons -- including 22.5 for the previous two.
Old? Save the shawl, rocking chair and fuzzy slippers for some other day.
Asked if his offseason conditioning is more difficult now at age 33 and takes longer, Peppers simply smiled.
"You have to put the work in but I wouldn't say it gets any harder," he said. "What I'm doing is working on the right things."
If the Bears struggle early and their defense becomes a punching bag for opposing teams, expect that "age" issue to resurface like a bad check.
Peppers is one of four starters on defense over the age of 30, joining Charles Tillman (32), Lance Briggs (32) and D.J. Williams (31).
You won't find them busting it in training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. These aren't rookies learning their way around campus. They're veterans with a lot of miles and who occasionally get a day off for added rest.
"That's the thing is this league. When you reach 30, it's that number everyone wants to put on you as 'old,'" Peppers said. "But these guys come out and work hard. We know what we're doing.
"I think we've got the right mix of older guys and younger guys. I don't think it's a problem as far as age on this team."
Depth and health are big concerns, so you won't see the Bears tackling anything that moves until this week.
"We want to try to keep everybody healthy because we need all of our guys for the first (preseason) game," Peppers said. "A healthy team is a top priority."
Linebacker D.J. Williams (calf), defensive end Corey Wootton (hip), and offensive tackles Jonathan Scott (knee) and Jermon Bushrod (calf) are still on the mend.
"It's early in camp. Fortunately, we got time to heal 'em up and get 'em back in here," Peppers said.
Few fans know how athletic Julius Frazier Peppers is.
He was a reserve on the 1999-2000 North Carolina basketball team that made it to the Final Four.
In the 2001 NCAA Tournament, Peppers scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a second-round loss to Penn State.
Peppers chose football and vowed never to be "average." He says he can still improve his game despite having such a flashy resume.
"Every day is a process," he said. "You never get to the point where you feel you're the best and can't get any better. You try to get better than you were the day before. I know it's a cliche, but it's true.
"That's just the maturation of a player. Find something to get better on and do it until you can't do it anymore."
And hopefully, along the way, win a Super Bowl or two.