Network processors (NPs) implement a balance between hardware and software that addresses the demand of performance and programmability in active networks (AN). We argue that this makes them an important player in the implementation and deployment of ANs. Besides a general introduction into the relationship of NPs and ANs, we describe the power of this combination in a framework for secure and safe capsule-based active code. We also describe the advantages of offloading AN control point functionality into the NP and how to execute active code in the data path efficiently. Furthermore, the paper reports on experiences about implementing active networking concepts on the IBM PowerNP network processor.