Stephen Hill had nine drops in 23 career games for the New York Jets, and his unsure hands have come to define him through his first two seasons in the league.
A former second-round pick out of Georgia Tech, Hill signed with the Panthers’ practice squad Tuesday, and he wanted to make clear who he thought was responsible for his bad rap.
“Well honestly that was New York Jets media that did that,” Hill said. “If you really go back and look at it, there were guys at other facilities that dropped more than I did. As a receiver you’re going to drop passes. You’re going to catch footballs.
“Things like that happen; it’s just that the New York media – and honestly this is me talking – did all that. They can say what they want to say about me, but I really don’t care. I’m in a new place now. They tried their best to get me out of there.”
Hill said he was surprised when the Jets released him last week after just two years in the NFL, but he declined to say much more about his time in New York.
His agent, Alan Herman, had indicated Hill didn’t get a fair shake with the Jets because of the turnover at quarterback. With Geno Smith taking over for Mark Sanchez in 2013, as well as the Jets bringing in Tim Tebow in 2012, there wasn’t stability at quarterback like in Carolina with Cam Newton.
“Things happen and you have to adjust. I don’t want to make that as an excuse or anything,” Hill said. “It does help to have a stable quarterback that’s been in an offense for a long period of time. I feel Geno did a great job and Mark Sanchez did a great job when I was there. I really enjoyed it there, but like I said, it’s definitely a better feeling with having a quarterback in the offense that was in here for a long time.”
Hill is one of three receivers on the Panthers’ 10-man practice squad along with Tavarres King and Marcus Lucas. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he liked what he saw out of Hill on Wednesday, including his hands, but that he still has a long way to go in learning the offense.
Rivera won’t bring Hill up to the 53-man roster this week against Tampa Bay, and he said how quickly Hill grasps the offense will dictate when he goes to the active roster. But Rivera isn’t concerned about another team scooping up Hill, who went unclaimed off waivers, off the practice squad.
“We were really the only ones who showed interest in him,” Rivera said. “So hopefully, that means we’ll get a nice long look at him. We’ll work him and see how he’ll potentially fit us. And if the opportunity arises to bring him up, we will.”