SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Ted Ginn Jr. broke off the line quickly, used a stutter step to get by a defender and accelerated down the field as he hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton before leaping the white picket fence that surrounds practice field at Wofford College to avoid injuring himself.
“Teddy Ginn, it’s like he’s never left,” coach Ron Rivera said.
The speedy wide receiver/returner is back in Carolina after spending a year “chasing a check” in Arizona.
Ginn rejuvenated his struggling NFL career with a strong season for the Panthers in 2013. The Panthers, who had signed Ginn to a prove-it, one-year deal, wanted him back but found themselves strapped under the NFL salary cap.
So Ginn decided to go for the money, parlaying a productive season into a three-year, $9.75 million free agent contact with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014.
“You only have a short window in this league, so you just gotta go and do what’s good for your family,” Ginn said of joining the Cardinals. “At the end of the day, I don’t think going out there was best for my family. I think being here (in Carolina) was the best thing for me.”
Ginn never got the see the entire payday. He was cut after one unproductive season in which he was limited to 19 receptions and no touchdowns.
After being released, he spoke to his agent and asked if there was any way he could return to Carolina.
The Panthers were more than happy to take him back, albeit for less money. Ginn gladly accepted a modest two-year, $4.2 million deal this past offseason to return, hoping to pick up where he left off in 2013.
“The Panthers gave me everything I could ask for when I was here,” Ginn said. “Then going to Arizona, they just shut me back down. To come back here and get another life is great.”
The Panthers need Ginn just as much as he needs them.
The eight-year NFL veteran caught 36 passes for 556 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in 2013 as the team’s No. 3 receiver, helping the Panthers go 12-4 and win the NFC South. He was the speed guy that Rivera counted on to “blow the top” off the defense.
He’s doing just that in practice.
Ginn already has caught three long touchdown passes.
“He’s fit right back into the system,” Rivera said. “He’s caught some big balls obviously using his tremendous speed. It does an awful lot for the offense. There are some things that he’s going to bring to the table that are going to be really big for us, especially the vertical stretch.”
Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is happy to have him back, too.
Olsen, who went to his first Pro Bowl last season, said teams have to honor Ginn’s speed which will free things up for him over the middle.
Ginn is happy again, even though he’s making less money.
He is recently married and has 5-year-old twins, so stability has become important to him.
He also wants to be where he’s appreciated.
He has that in Carolina.
When the Cardinals and Panthers met in the divisional playoffs in January, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis sought out Ginn after the game and advised him to leave his belongings in the locker room and come on back home.
“That showed me that everyone still had confidence in me,” Ginn said.
Ginn is happy to be reunited with wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, who has become a friend and mentor to the former first-round draft pick.
He also likes the coaching style in Carolina.
“They believe,” Ginn said. “If you make a mistake, they’re not hounding on you; they’re not beating you up. It’s a mistake. As long as you get it corrected, you can keep on being who you are.”