BOURBONNAIS -- Seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers has already accomplished so much in 11 NFL seasons that praise of him transcends his teammates.
"It's so impressive it's hard to describe," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "The way he carries himself around the locker room, through the meetings and certainly on the field, and watching him since April, (it's) just impressive, the consistent high level of effort. He's all over the field. He's first in line.
"We all want to grow up and be like Julius. Quite frankly, that's the kind of a man I think of him as."
Peppers, who had a team-best 11½ sacks in 2012, his eighth season in double-digits, would never speak so highly of himself, but he looks much younger than his 33 years and said he feels much younger. He might not be immune to the aging process, but that's the way he feels.
"I feel like I'm 25," he said. "Age is just a number that gets put on players. It's real, but it's really in your heart and your mind how you feel. I feel young in those places, and I think it's showing."
Peppers, linebacker Lance Briggs (32) and cornerback Charles Tillman (32) are the foundation of a Bears defense that was third in points and fifth in yards allowed least season. Peppers says the only problem with their age is the misguided perception of others.
"That's the thing in this league," Peppers said, "when you reach 30, that's the number that everybody wants to put on you and say you're getting old. But these guys come out and work hard. We all 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."
Watching the Blackhawks win the Stanly Cup twice since he came to the Bears in 2010 puts grand ideas into Peppers' head.
"I think about it all the time," he said. "I've seen the Blackhawks do it, and it's a great time for this city. We're going to try. We're going to put the work in. We're going to try and give ourselves a chance, and we're going to try and bring it home."
As for individual awards, the NFL will, for the first time this year, present the Deacon Jones Award to the league's top sacker, an honor within Pepper's grasp. He's second in the NFL with 111½ sacks since he entered the league as the second overall pick in 2002 with the Carolina Panthers.
"I'm not going to sit out here and make any bold predictions or brash statements about what I'm going to do," he said. "But yeah, I would love to have it."