After talking glowingly about how the Panthers were able to add team speed during the draft, head coach Ron Rivera then addressed a key player who’s added pounds.
Rivera said No. 1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin showed up for the first phase of the offseason program overweight, continuing a trend that has followed Benjamin since he was a freshman at Florida State.
The Panthers list the 6-5 Benjamin at 245 pounds, although his playing weight has been as high as 252 pounds, according to a team source.
Rivera didn’t say what Benjamin’s current weight is, but said a broadcast report that put Benjamin at close to 280 pounds was wrong.
“He is a little heavy. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. We talked about what he has to do, and he’s done a great job,” Rivera said Saturday.
“Am I concerned? Yes, because he is heavy. I’m going to admit that right now,” Rivera added. “But is he working hard? Absolutely. He’s been there everyday and done the things we’ve asked him to do, and it’s all strictly on a voluntary basis.”
The Panthers said in March that they would pick up Benjamin’s fifth-year option for the 2018 season, but they have yet to do so. The deadline is Wednesday.
Benjamin was redshirted at Florida State after showing up overweight as a freshman.
He enjoyed a strong rookie season after the Panthers drafted him in the first round in 2014. But he was plagued by hamstring issues the following offseason, which Rivera theorized were attributed to Benjamin’s poor conditioning and extra pounds.
Two years later, the issue has resurfaced again.
The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to fine players for being overweight during certain times of the year. And Rivera made it clear Benjamin and other players who don’t make the weight would be subject to discipline.
“It’ll be my job to hold everybody accountable as well to make sure we are where we need to be,” Rivera said. “So we’ll set those weights. Our guys will follow the rules just like we’ve always done. Guys will be punished accordingly to what’s allowed.”