Carolina Panthers receiver Ted Ginn was a surprise addition to the injury report Friday after the team’s top deep threat felt soreness in his knee following Thursday’s practice.
Ginn sat out Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s divisional-round game against Seattle, but Ginn said he would play.
“Just a little soreness. It happens when you have a little injury, I guess,” Ginn said. “It was a collective group (decision). I just sat down for the day. Get ready for (Saturday) and Sunday.”
Ginn was sidelined for the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay and did not practice last week during the Panthers’ bye. He was listed as full participation for the Wednesday and Thursday practices this week before visiting a doctor Thursday in what Panthers coach Ron Rivera characterized as a precautionary measure.
Ginn declined to reveal the nature or extent of his injury. But he left little question about his status for Sunday’s game, saying he expected to return punts in addition to his receiving duties.
“I’m going to be where I’ve always been,” Ginn said. “Ted Ginn is 100 percent for everything.”
Ginn had only one catch in the Week 6 win at Seattle. But it was a big one – an 18-yarder across the middle from Cam Newton during the Panthers’ game-winning drive.
Rivera said he expects Ginn to play against the Seahawks (11-6), but stopped short of saying Ginn would be 100 percent.
“Hopefully he’s full-go,” Rivera said. “We’ll see how he his (Saturday).”
But Rivera pointed out that having Ginn’s deep-threat presence on the field Sunday would be beneficial and could change the Seahawks’ defensive approach.
“With him being out there it may change their attitude, the way they look at him and look at our offense,” Rivera said. “So having him healthy and having him ready to roll is important for us.”
Ginn led the Panthers (15-1) with a career-high 10 touchdown catches, and his team-leading 16.8-yard receiving average ranked eighth in the NFL. Eight of Ginn’s 15 touchdown receptions in his two stints with Carolina have gone for 25 yards or more, with five covering at least 40 yards.
“We’re going to run the plays we run,” Rivera said. “But one of the things that Teddy does for us is get vertical very quickly. Again, having him on the field always brings that aspect.”
When Ginn was out against the Bucs, rookie wideout Devin Funchess started and had a career-high seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
After Ginn’s two-week break, Funchess says it appears Ginn is getting his legs back under him.
“He looked good,” Funchess said. “He’s getting back to his old speed and the swing of things.”
If Ginn suffers a setback before Sunday or aggravates the injury against Seattle, the Panthers would be without their top punt returner and kick returner.
Fozzy Whittaker, who handles kick returns, is out with a high ankle sprain. Joe Webb returned kicks in Whittaker’s absence in Week 17, but Rivera declined to say who would be the kick returner Sunday.
Ginn averaged 10.3 yards per return during the regular season, with a long of 37 yards.
“That’s a big boost for us because he’s one of those guys, you just give him the opportunity and he can go the distance,” Rivera said. “That’s one of the real important things.”
Ginn’s teams have made the playoffs in six of his nine seasons, and he played in the Super Bowl with San Francisco after the 2012 season. Ginn says players have to find a way to play through pain in the postseason.
“I’ve been in this thing nine years. I’ve had five (previous) runs in the playoffs. I’ve been lucky, one Super Bowl run,” Ginn said.
“It doesn’t come around often. It doesn’t come around all the time. So when you’re in this run like you are now you’ve got to go ahead and fight through what you need to fight through.”