Mike Adams: 'Stop looking at the bio' for him and fellow old-timer Julius Peppers

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Zack Sanchez was startled when he got a peek at the driver's license of Carolina Panthers strong safety Mike Adams.

"He said, 'Oh man! You were born in '81?'" the 36-year-old Adams recalled of the 23-year-old cornerback's reaction. "It made me feel super old because he said that was close to the '70s.

"They all got a little chuckle out of that."

Adams has gotten a steady stream of jokes about being born the year Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office and MTV launched its first show.

Defensive end Julius Peppers, 37, probably would get similar ribbing about being born in 1980 if the future Hall of Famer didn't tower over teammates at a monstrous 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds.

In football years, they're old.

But Adams is convinced the Panthers can be the top defense in the NFL with a couple of old codgers leading the way. Here's how he tried to convince a group of reporters Saturday.

"Stop looking at the bio," Adams said. "Watch the tape. Peppers, he didn't lose a step. He's still being the dog out there.

"And trust me, I'm running like I'm 22. I don't know how far I'm keeping up, but I'm running like I'm 22."

The Panthers didn't sign these old-timers during the offseason to provide them a retirement home. They did it to win, remembering how older veterans such as safety Roman Harper and defensive end Jared Allen (both 33) helped the 2015 team go 15-1 and reach Super Bowl 50.

They felt that experience and veteran savvy, particularly in a secondary that started two rookie cornerbacks, was missing from last season's team that went 6-10.

"Are we trying to copy what we did in 2015 with some veteran additions?" coach Ron Rivera said. "You're darn right."

Those who follow the Panthers know what Peppers can do. From the time Carolina made him the second pick of the 2002 draft until he left for Chicago in 2010, he collected 81 sacks, still the most in team history.

He also went to the Pro Bowl five of the nine times he's been selected.

But signing Adams, a two-time Pro Bowler, was equally important, if not moreso. He allowed Kurt Coleman to return to the free-safety spot where he had led the team in interceptions (seven) in 2015. He brings a tough veteran presence to the run defense.

Adams also brings levity, which comes in handy when things are tense.

Asked what he thought of Coleman, he joked, "I don’t really like Kurt."

Asked about the sometimes-unbearable humidity of Spartanburg, Adams said backup quarterback Derek Anderson "lied to me" about what the weather would be like.

But Adams was best when talking about his age. He spent the first seven seasons of his career going through two-a-day practices with no days off before the new collective bargaining agreement went into effect in 2011, Cam Newton's first season.

"The guys nowadays, they're spoiled," he said. "I'm going to tell you right now, they're spoiled. And they don't even know it."

Adams said he doesn't even understand today's music and hairstyles. "I'm like Biggie and Tupac [Shakur] ... I'm 50 Cent," he said. "These guys, I don't know half these guys' names. They're like Lil Ya Ya, I think. What's these guys' names? Lil Yachty."

Adams also doesn't understand some of the "new clothes" players wear, so he'll be in for more than few surprises with Newton. Can anyone say capris?

But Adams understands football in a way younger players don't. He doesn't just know what the plays are, he knows why they're being run and how they will be effective against opponents.

And he's mentally tough. You have to be to be entering your 14th season.

"I grind, grind every year," Adams said. 'And every year they brought somebody in to either take my position or replace me, and I came out on top."

Adams recalled the sage advice he got from John Fox, Carolina's coach from 2002-10, while they were together in Denver in 2012-13.

"He used to talk about availability ... availability, responsibility, all the abilities," Adams said. "I was always available. I was smart. I learned the plays. I learned different positions, safety, corner, nickel.

"I played it all. I tried to make myself irreplaceable, if that make sense."

Asked if he could play nickel in a crunch now, Adams didn't hesitate.

"Yeah," he said. "I got it in me. Y'all see me run."

Adams will make the Panthers better unless he hits the proverbial age wall or gets hurt. He and Peppers, along with a front seven that is one of the best in the NFL, should help elevate this defense back to the top 10, where it was for four consecutive seasons before 2016.

Higher, if you ask Adams.

"I know this defense definitely, definitely can be one of the best in the league," he said. "You can't sugarcoat that we want to be No. 1 in the league. That's our goal. That's what we want."

Thanks to a couple of old men, they have a chance to do that.

"They call me O.G.," said Adams, referencing the original gangster moniker. "Peppers is Triple O.G. Cam has his own nickname for me. He calls me 'Old School.' I'll take that, too."