Peppers did not play in Michigan's 33-32 loss to Florida State at the Capital One Orange Bowl; he tweaked his left hamstring in practice while jumping to catch a ball?the day before the game. Peppers tested the leg in full pads during the team's warm-up Friday but decided he wasn't healthy enough to play.
After the game, a teary-eyed Peppers said his NFL future did not have an effect on his decision to sit out the game. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound linebacker said he couldn't run at full speed during warm-ups and thought he would be harming his team by trying to play. He added that he could have played if he had one more day to heal.
"I could care less about what people think about why I didn't play," Peppers said. "I just couldn't be out there with my brothers. That hurt more than the loss. My future didn't play any role in this. I still don't know what I'm going to do yet."
Sources who know Peppers told ESPN's Adam Schefter that this was "not a McCaffrey or Fournette situation," referring to Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and LSU's Leonard Fournette, who chose to sit out their bowl games to prepare for the draft.
Peppers has two years of eligibility remaining but is projected as a first-round draft pick.
In addition, Michigan lost tight end Jake Butt when he appeared to injure his right knee at the end of a 16-yard reception in the second quarter. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Butt likely injured his ACL or MCL.
Harbaugh said he didn't yet know the exact injury or the severity of it. Butt, a senior, won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end this season and was considered one of the top NFL prospects at the position heading into Friday's game.
Sources told ESPN's Darren Rovell that Butt has $4 million in total disability insurance, which will pay out if he can't play football again. He also has $2 million in loss of value insurance, which will start paying out if he slips past the second round in the 2017 NFL draft.
Butt tweeted an hour after the game that it "never once crossed my mind to sit this game out and I would never change that mindset. I play this game [because] I love it."
Linebackers coach Chris Partridge, who also was Peppers' head coach at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High School, said Peppers was in treatment for his leg for much of the 24 hours leading into the game. Partridge said it was doubtful that Peppers was going to be able to play, but the coaching staff wanted to give him a chance to warm up the hamstring before the game.
Peppers said his inability to play against the Seminoles will "absolutely" have some impact on the NFL decision looming in the next couple of weeks.
"I've got some decisions to make," he said. "I still feel like I didn't do what I set out to do as an individual and as a team. We didn't make the playoffs, didn't make the Rose Bowl. To come here and lose the Orange Bowl, man, that just sucks. We work too hard."
Peppers said he'll talk with his mother and his coaches in the coming weeks to decide his next move. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 16.