Sunday’s NFC Championship Game was a redemption for Carolina Panthers receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn played a key role in the Panthers’ 49-15 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, the team that cut him after an unproductive 2014 season.
He was anything but unproductive Sunday, using his speed to score on a 22-yard run in the first quarter, catching two passes for 52 yards and almost breaking a punt return for a touchdown.
“I felt like deep down inside that (the Cardinals) thought I couldn’t do it,” said Ginn. “They sent me back out to the wolves. But then (Panthers coach Ron) Rivera, (general manager Dave) Gettleman, (owner Jerry) Richardson, even (quarterback) Cam (Newton), they stood on the table and said, hey, we want this guy back. All I can do is go out and play as hard as I can.
Ginn’s speed helped in a different way late in the second quarter. After Arizona’s Patrick Peterson intercepted a Cam Newton pass at the Cardinals 10, Ginn – who was standing on the goal line and giving the speedy Peterson a 10-yard head start – sprinted 78 yards to tackle him from behind at the 22.
“When you’re in a dogfight, every play counts,” said Ginn. “When you’re on the track, you hear somebody say, ‘move,’ that means somebody’s coming. I always try my hardest and don’t stop on a play. I think with me running (Peterson) down, it helped turn the game around.”
Ginn’s touchdown came on a 22-yard reverse in the first quarter. After taking the ball from quarterback Cam Newton, Ginn went left, then used his sprinter’s speed to traverse the field and race into the right side of the end zone.
Ginn might have had another touchdown earlier in the game. He appeared to be on the verge of breaking free on a punt return, but slipped and fell after picking up 32 yards.
Ginn has been in the NFL for nine years, but his two best seasons have been with the Panthers – first in 2013 and, then, after one intermittent season with the Cardinals, this Super Bowl season in Carolina.
In his first tour with the Panthers, Ginn caught 36 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns, his best season to that point. But he was only signed for one season and left as a free agent for Arizona.
Ginn caught 14 passes – the third lowest of his career – for 190 yards and no touchdowns last season for the Cardinals, who cut him after the season.
Before being slowed by a late-season knee injury, Ginn caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed the last game of the regular season and didn’t have a catch against the Seattle Seahawks last week in the Panthers’ playoff opener.
“I tried to take ‘me’ out of it, but it meant a lot to me,” Ginn said.