Seemingly no one with the Carolina Panthers knows why Ted Ginn Jr. fits so well with them and not with any other team.
Ginn doesn’t know what went in his 2014 season in Arizona when he caught just 14 passes for 190 yards and zero touchdowns.
So who knows?
“That’s a question that one day when I meet the man upstairs, he’ll answer for me,” Ginn said.
Never miss a local story.
Ginn has had the second- and third-best seasons of his nine-year career in his two years in Carolina. But sandwiched between those seasons he spent a year in the desert, where he was back to being an afterthought.
Ginn resurrected his career with Carolina in 2013. He was known as a draft bust in Miami and spent two years in San Francisco. His last season with the 49ers saw him catch two passes for 1 yard.
With the Panthers, Ginn caught 36 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns, his most in one season to that point. But Carolina only signed him for a year and he was a free agent after the season.
He signed a three-year, $9.75 million contract in Arizona, but was cut at the end of the season. Ginn’s 14 catches were the third-lowest in his career, and he essentially was unseated by third-round receiver John Brown, now one of Arizona’s top targets.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t even have to look at Ginn’s tape in Arizona to know he wanted the receiver back on his team in 2015.
“We didn’t. We really didn’t,” Rivera said. “We have a good sense and feel for who he is for us. It’s funny, one of the things that we talked about with our players is we love players for who they are to you. He fits what we do, for whatever reason.
“We looked at tape from the other teams that he played on when we first looked at him in 2013 and we kept saying man he’s going to help us and he’s going to fit with what we do. And lo and behold he gets here and that’s what he does.”
Ginn said during training camp that he went to Arizona “chasing a check,” meaning he went for the money. He didn’t find happiness there, but he doesn’t regret his decision.
“Not at all,” said Ginn, who has a Cardinal tattooed on his right shoulder blade opposite a Panthers logo. “Made me who I am. Made me be who I am today. I just go out and just keep playing football and having fun while doing it.”
Ginn had another big season in 2015 as Carolina’s No. 1 receiver after Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury. His 44 receptions and 739 yards are the second-most in a season in his career, and his 10 touchdowns doubled his previous career high.
Ginn said all of the negative talk about the remaining Panthers receiving corps in the offseason helped fuel his, and the offense’s, year.
“You lose a 6-foot-5 guy and have a bunch of 6-foot guys and still making it do what it do, it will make us a little chippy and eager to fight more,” Ginn said. “It does make us want to make a better block for guys. We were chalked out already. We were already erased. ‘Carolina Panthers weren’t going to be able to do (anything).’”
But lately Ginn has been hampered by a knee injury. He didn’t play in the regular-season finale and didn’t have a catch on one target last week against Seattle, though he did have an end-around carry for 11 yards.
What he does present for Carolina, and why he’ll be on the field Sunday even if he’s not at 100 percent, is speed. Just the threat of Ginn blowing the top off Arizona’s coverage is enough to make the Cardinals assign a player or two to him and free up other pass-catchers for Carolina.
“You can’t coach speed, and that’s one thing he has,” Rivera said. “He looked good (Wednesday) in practice, moved around very well and again, I think for what we do and how we use him, I think he’s perfect.”
Ginn says he still has respect for plenty of his former Arizona teammates and that there are no hard feelings. But he’s played a former team for the first time with Carolina before.
In 2013 Ginn went with the Panthers to San Francisco where Carolina won 10-9. Ginn had two catches for 19 yards and three punt returns for 65 yards in the victory.
After one catch near the San Francisco sideline he stared down a 49ers player and spun the ball. There may be something similar in store this weekend.
“I don’t know, you know?” Ginn said. “Just going to go out and play football and have fun while we do it. We’re going for a goal and that’s to win this game.”