Carolina Panthers

Bitter? Angry? Time with Panthers produced a different emotion in Rams RB CJ Anderson

For anyone expecting — or hoping for — Los Angeles Rams running back CJ Anderson to be bitter about his sudden exit from the Carolina Panthers in October now that he’ll be playing in the Super Bowl, not a chance.

Anderson, grinning from ear to ear during his small media scrum during Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday, is quite obviously and very simply ... happy.

And thankful, for everything, he said. Every opportunity.

Even though his road to Sunday’s game against New England was rather bumpy.

Anderson was released by the Panthers in Week 11 after signing with the team in free agency last spring. He was signed by Oakland for six days, released, then joined Los Angeles in Week 16 and proceeded to rush for 421 yards in three games. He replaced lead back Todd Gurley, who was nursing a knee injury late in the season, and then rushed for 123 yards in the divisional round against Dallas — while a fresher-legged Gurley rushed for 115 of his own.

“I think my whole career, if you look at it, whenever I got opportunity I’ve played well,” said Anderson. “I think I got a lot of opportunity to play well here. And I’m taking advantage of that.”

Last spring, Anderson joined the Panthers under the impression — as was the coaching staff — that he would be used in tandem with starting running back/receiver Christian McCaffrey. But Anderson rarely saw the field while McCaffrey rushed for 1,098 yards on 219 carries and caught 107 passes for 867 yards.

“When I got to Carolina, it was a one-two punch, me and Christian McCaffrey,” he said. “He ended up emerging. ... (Being complementary) was supposed to happen, and it didn’t.

“But Carolina didn’t do anything wrong. They brought me in (before releasing me) and told me that right in my face. They respect me enough as a player to keep it real with me and what went on, and what went wrong. And that’s fine.”

When Anderson realized he wouldn’t be playing as much, he said, he still didn’t waste his time off the field and on the sideline.

“My time in Carolina was special because I got to learn from good coaches and good players,” he said. “I’m a cerebral guy. I got to learn a lot from (head coach) Ron Rivera about defenses. ... I got to learn from one of the best (linebackers) in the game in Luke Kuechly. The way he sees offensive formations and knows what plays are coming. Luke is probably one of the smartest dudes in this game once Peyton (Manning) left.

“Being good friends and learning from (linebacker) Thomas Davis, learning from (cornerback) Captain Munnerlyn. (Defensive end) Julius Peppers. Learning from some of those vets over there.

“I definitely took advantage of my opportunity off the field and in the locker room, even though I wasn’t getting playing time.”

Staying mentally ready — even though he wasn’t playing — must have helped Anderson ahead of his signing with Los Angeles. He said it took him only three days to learn head coach Sean McVay’s playbook.

“Wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and put 18 hours, countless hours in,” he said, laughing. “I watched every game in two days, just so I could get a feel for the playcalling. ... Got a good bead on (McVay) and it’s been working out.”

Anderson helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in 2015 and rushed for 1,007 yards in 2017 before he was released by Denver, then signed by Carolina. He said Monday night he feels a similar vibe in the Los Angeles locker room that he felt in Denver in 2015.

“As soon as I walked in the building, you can feel the vibe and what their goal was from the jump,” he said. “It was just all about working toward (making that goal) a reality.”

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @JourdanRodrigue

Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.
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