How long can a pass rusher still be productive? Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers have already broken the mold and are pressing the question.
The two defensive legends will step on the same field Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. It will probably be the last time that happens because Father Time always wins.
Suggs is 36. Peppers is 38. Yet they're still producing sacks like a couple of 20-year-olds.
Suggs is tied for the Ravens' team lead with 5.5 this season, which puts him just outside the NFL's top 10. Peppers posted 11 sacks last year and has notched strip-sacks in back-to-back games.
They've been getting it done for a long, long time. Peppers is the NFL's active sacks leader (156 ½), which ranks him fourth all-time behind Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160). Suggs has the second-most sacks among active players (131), which is 15th all-time.
So how do they do it?
It starts with their physical makeup. Peppers is 6-foot-7, 295 pounds. Suggs is in a different mold at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, but he's just as athletically gifted.
"Those guys are just on a different level athletically," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "There aren't very many of those types of human beings walking around on the planet."
"Peppers and Terrell, they're the same in that they're naturally born to play football," veteran Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda added. "Guys like that who are freaks of nature can play a long time."
But it's more than that. The Ravens can't speak for Peppers, but the way Suggs approaches the game is also what his teammates say has contributed to his longevity.
After tearing his Achilles in 2015, Suggs returned with eight sacks in 2016, 11 last season and is now on pace for 12.5 this year. He's only gotten better.
"Everything he got, he went and took it from the other team," said fellow outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who is 10 years younger than Suggs. "The man prepares his butt off and is constantly studying like a young guy. For some odd reason, he stays young. Hopefully he can live forever."
Peppers was the second-overall pick in 2002 and Suggs was the 10th-overall pick a year later. They got to know each other early in their careers when they trained together in Arizona during the offseason. They sometimes even shot some hoops together, which favors Peppers as a former North Carolina basketball player.
"I've seen him play a little bit. He was alright. Not too bad," Peppers told Panthers.com.
"I've always looked up to 'Pep,'" Suggs said. "He came out of North Carolina and was a two-sport player. I wasn't fortunate enough to have that kind of ability to play two sports in college."
When it comes to appreciating each other on the football field, however, there's a lot more kudos.
They do it in different ways. Peppers has been a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in a 4-3 system. He has a more reserved personality. Suggs is a stand-up outside linebacker who is no stranger to trash talk.
"When he's on the field, I'm going to be watching him play," Suggs said. "I definitely admire him. He's a great player, and he's one of those rare forms you don't get to see often in this league."
"He's a great person and a fun guy to be around," Peppers said. "He's gifted with it. I love how he plays the game."
One day, both players could/should end up in the Hall of Fame together. They actually saw each other in Canton this summer when Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, who Peppers played three seasons with in Chicago, were enshrined.
Depending on when they hang up the cleats, they could be in the same class. Peppers seems closer to that day than Suggs, though. Could Suggs play till he's 38 like Peppers?
"Trust me, if he can do it, he'll do it," Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "I think he's going to chase [Tom] Brady (41 years old). I would not be shocked at all. I would not bet any money on it because of what he's done and what 'Sizz' has shown."
Suggs isn't tipping his hand. He's in the final year of his contract, so he'd need an extension from the Ravens or (hopefully not) somebody else.
"I don't know. You don't ever want to jinx yourself," Suggs said with a grin. "You take it one year at a time, one game at a time. It's the NFL, man. Anything can change at any moment. Don't take anything for granted."