Last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s effort level was called into question after he appeared to give up on two plays that were not blown dead.
Two of the four passes intended for Benjamin against the Chargers were intercepted, and one was run back for a touchdown. Replay overturned the first interception, and although the second stood up to replay, the touchdown return was called back. He made little effort to chase down the defender on either play.
Benjamin, who was absent from the locker room after Sunday’s game, said Wednesday he knew the ball hit the ground on the first play.
“And I already knew I put the guy on the ground on the second,” he said. “But at the same time I probably should have finished until the whistle blew.”
What lessons did Benjamin learn?
“Just make sure you finish,” he said. “Because what if they didn’t (reverse it)? It would’ve been a touchdown.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said during his postgame news conference he didn’t have a problem with Benjamin’s effort. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said on Monday that such situations are generally addressed privately.
“We talk to all of our guys about playing until the end of the whistle,” he said. “If we talk to all of our guys about playing until the end of the whistle, then the whistle hasn’t blown and they haven’t played until the end of the whistle, then we’ll remind him.”
Shula said Benjamin, who missed last season with a torn ACL, was battling through injuries, but nothing more serious than the bumps and bruises other NFL players suffer.
Monday, Carolina will see a familiar face in former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, a key member of last season’s Super Bowl team.
Norman will provide a huge test mentally and physically for the receivers he covers – and Benjamin said he expects that to be him “the whole game.”
“Oh yeah, I know he will,” Benjamin said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Shula said the matchup will be a challenge for Benjamin.
“I think, when you look at that matchup, one of the things that makes (Josh) unique is that he’s pretty good against smaller receivers and he’s pretty good against bigger receivers,” Shula said. “One of the things we’ll look at is he may play Kelvin differently than how Kelvin is watching him play other guys.”
Benjamin said Norman, notably chatty on the field, never got in his head when they faced off in practice – even when Benjamin was a rookie.
“Not at all, actually. I would probably say I used to get in Josh’s head more than he got in mine,” he said. “I just came in with an attitude (my rookie year) to compete.”