CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fired the ball deep to receiver Ted Ginn Jr. last week against the Giants, the fans in Bank of America Stadium hushed expectantly.
Ginn was on a full-out sprint, and that is always a sight to behold. But Newton had really flung it: The ball went 54 yards in the air.
“I thought I overthrew him,” Newton said.
Watching the ball descend, Ginn had the opposite reaction.
“Oh yeah, I had it,” he said. “But I had to slow down two or three steps.”
Ginn caught the ball, scoring on a 47-yard touchdown to match the 40-yard touchdown he had grabbed from Newton the week before against Buffalo.
Playing on a one-year contract he signed in March that pays him $1.1 million — a lot by normal standards, but not much by the NFL’s — Ginn has already become a serious short-term bargain for Carolina.
Long-term? Ginn, 28, said he’s not thinking about it (“That’s what agents are for”), although he would like to stay in Charlotte.
The Panthers undoubtedly will want him back for 2014, too, if he keeps producing like this.
At one point, Ginn was just part of the cast competing for the No.3 wideout role behind Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, including Armanti Edwards and Domenik Hixon. But for now, Ginn has run away with that job.
Coach Ron Rivera said: “Quite honestly, to Domenik and Armanti’s detriment, when they both got hurt, the one guy who stood out and took advantage of it was Ted. He started the next few games as our third receiver and really established himself.”
The upside of Ginn on the field is that he can “blow the top off the coverage,” to use Rivera’s term. Defensive backs are so worried about him going deep that the rest of the field opens up.
Ginn isn’t just a receiver, of course. He has been one of the best kickoff and punt returners in the NFL since entering the league in 2007. He once returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game, and in another game he took two kickoffs back for touchdowns. The first time he touched a return for the Panthers, in the preseason, he went 74 yards for a touchdown.
San Francisco kept Ginn around primarily as a returner the past three years. He averaged only 11 catches per season from 2010-12. He ached to be a receiver again, though.
He had averaged a respectable 42.7 catches per season with the Miami Dolphins from 2007-09, although he never turned into the No. 1 receiver the Dolphins envisioned when they drafted him No. 9 overall in 2007.
“I’ve been labeled a specialist, but my whole goal is to be a receiver,” Ginn said. “I’m getting my opportunity now and showing what people missed out on.”