‘The Truth According to Ted Ginn Jr.’ is an interesting web of tales.
Spend 15 minutes standing next to his locker at the Saints practice facility, chatting about speed, health, training techniques and the longevity of the 34-year-old’s NFL career, and you’ll hear a variety of stories — some with more truth than others — that paint the picture of one of the league’s fastest players with one of the best trash-talking mouths around.
For one, he takes his training and competition — at any level, in any form — seriously. The ninth-overall pick from the 2007 NFL Draft switched to a pescatarian diet this offseason, hinting that red meats might have been at the root of his need for arthroscopic knee surgery that put him on IR for half the 2018 regular season campaign.
“I’m just taking different precautions to try and stick in this league,” he said. “When you get to an older age, I pay attention to the young guys around me and their different little things. Weights are great, but they’re kinda going out of style right now. When I was young, I’d do weights a lot, you know, just go with the flow.
“I’m just happy I’m able to play.”
The question was about his personal goals, not the team goals.
To a fan unfamiliar with Ginn’s antics, those might sound like the words of a player who sees himself in the twilight of his career, just happy to hold onto a roster spot, but that’s far from the truth. The Ohio State product toes a fine line with reality — one he continuously speaks into existence.
This is the player who recently announced a public challenge for anyone — anytime, any place — to fork up $10,000 for a race “pole to pole," boasting as the college superstar who ran a 4.37 40-yard-dash at the NFL combine while recovering from a sprained foot. He claims he’s been clocked at 4.22 and could run anywhere from a 4.35 to a 4.38 nowadays, though he hasn’t been officially timed recently.
Ginn also to this day tells the tale of how, in 2004, he beat Olympic sprinting legend Usain Bolt in a race — kind of. In reality, the two were paired in separate 4x100-meter relay teams, with Ginn second leg putting his squad too far ahead for Bolt to catch in the closing sprint.
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“He almost came and got my guy, but we got him. When you get that ‘dub,'” he says, smiling and then trailing off.
Ginn, of course, is the biggest name headlining an upcoming speed contest called 40 Yards of Gold, which will pit 24 of the NFL’s fastest athletes up against each other in a tournament-style competition, leading to a final race between the fastest offensive and defensive players. The winner will be crowned as the fastest player in pro football, and the field includes Saints running back Alvin Kamara and former New Orleans tailback Mark Ingram.
The Saints wideout, who said he hasn’t been doing any race-specific training for the June 29 event, said locker room talk in the team’s Metairie facility often shifts to who players believe are the fastest, strongest, best in the league at a given position, and he takes plenty of pride in the belief that at 34, he’s still the best it gets in the NFL.
“We’re in a league where everyone wants to be the best. Everyone feels like they’re the guy. That’s what this league is all about,” he said. “But when you think about speed, and you come to the New Orleans Saints, you think about one guy. When you think about the No. 1 receiver, you go to Mike (Thomas). We’ve all got our labels.”
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But what about Alvin Kamara, the third-year tailback whose one-word descriptor on the field is ‘lightning,' or Cyril Grayson, the third-year journeyman wideout who became a seven-time All-American and four-time NCAA national champion during his track and field days at LSU?
“Alvin, yeah, that’s like me doing a balance beam. With Alvin, that’s what he’s good at. Let’s let people stick to what they’re good at,” Ginn jokes. “Grayson, I don’t think (he could beat me). He’s a real track athlete. He trains everyday on starts and finishes and things like that, but I hope technique don’t beat me.”
Ginn's honestly also bares some vulnerability on this afternoon, too, saying he was “50-50” on coming back or calling it quits during his injury woes last season, despite grabbing 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his first four games a year ago. In 2017, he combined for 65 grabs for 974 yards and six scores in 17 games during the regular season and playoffs.
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“Going through the different things I went through and seeing the different doctors made me a little scared, but you leave it with the man upstairs, and he brought me through,” he said.
And now, he finds himself in the final OTA of the offseason, entering the 13th season of his career — one where he set his personal-bests for catches and yards in the regular season back in 2008 — and yet Ginn still is holding court in his fifth NFL locker room. The public race, he said, was at its simplest, a perfectly calculated PR stunt, and it worked.
But that’s only part of the truth. Ginn truly believes he’s the fastest, and that won’t stop until someone steps up and proves him otherwise.
“You know how you all guys do. You’ll take something and run with it, and it came to be a huge deal, and now the whole world is all over it,” he laughs. “But everything you try to do in life, you try to win. You try to do your best at all times. Just go out and do your deal, and whatever happens, happens.”