SPARTANBURG, S.C. When wide receiver Louis Murphy was asked Saturday about his new football life with the Carolina Panthers, he first mentioned the weather.
"Hotter than the Bay Area," Murphy said in the air-conditioned cool after a morning workout.
That’s not the only difference.
After an injury-influenced third season in which Murphy tumbled down the Oakland Raiders’ depth chart, Murphy was traded to the Panthers last week for a conditional draft choice, offering the former Florida Gator the opportunity to reestablish himself with a team intent on solidifying its wide receiver corps.
Brandon LaFell starts training camp as the No. 2 wideout while David Gettis begins on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from his training-camp knee injury last summer. There are other options – Seyi Arijotutu and Armanti Edwards among them – but Murphy’s acquisition signaled the Panthers’ interest in upgrading the position.
For two years, Murphy was a significant part of the Raiders’ offense. In his 2009 NFL debut, Murphy caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell in a Monday night game against San Diego. He also caught a game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining against Pittsburgh later in his rookie season.
Murphy had 75 receptions for 1,130 yards in two years but last year was different. He underwent surgery for a sports hernia late in training camp, fell behind and lost his spot in the Raiders’ receiver rotation behind Derrius Heyward-Bey, Danarius Moore, Chaz Schilens and Jacoby Ford. Murphy finished the season with just 15 receptions for 241 yards and no touchdowns.
"Oakland was the past. I’m just looking forward right now," Murphy said Saturday.
That means looking at a Carolina offense that expanded as last season unfolded, ultimately blossoming into a multi-dimensional attack overseen by quarterback Cam Newton.
In Smith, Newton found a favorite target. In Murphy, Newton is reunited with a former Florida teammate, who provides a new target.
Newton spent one season in Gainesville before transferring to Blinn College, enough time for Murphy to get a sense of what the future Heisman Trophy winner could be.
When he first saw Newton, a freshman, on the Florida campus, Murphy said he had one thought.
"NFL ready," Murphy said.
If the receiving thing doesn’t work out, maybe Murphy has a future as an NFL scout.
"Me and my dad talked about (Newton’s size) a lot. Just how big his calves were," Murphy said. "Just when you see him, he looked like he was ready from when he first stepped on campus. His mentality was to always be a winner. That’s what I loved about him."
After mini-camp with the Raiders earlier this year, Murphy said he intends to play this season with a chip on his shoulder, believing he has something to prove after last year. He said he’s heard people questioning him and wants to answer his critics.
"I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder," Murphy said. "That’s just mentality and I kind of got away from that last year and doubted myself. This year I know what I’ve got to do."