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When Arizona didn’t work out, Ted Ginn Jr. sped back to Carolina Panthers

On of the reasons wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., left, returned to the Carolina Panthers so quickly when his stay with the Arizona Cardinals didn’t work out was the chance to work again with Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl (right).
On of the reasons wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., left, returned to the Carolina Panthers so quickly when his stay with the Arizona Cardinals didn’t work out was the chance to work again with Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl (right). jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

No. 19 takes off down the right side of the field and Cam Newton’s pass lands several yards behind him.

Was that a fly pattern?

“No,” says Ted Ginn Jr. “I turned it into a fly pattern.”

The line is good and the route was better. When was the last time a receiver outran a Newton pass? It would enhance this column to report that Ginn did Thursday at practice. Alas, Ginn refuses to enhance the column. He says he did not outrun the pass. He ran a route Newton did not anticipate.

But this much is true: Ginn, 30, runs as if it’s what he’s designed to do. At 5-11 and 185 pounds, he is as fluid as he is fast, head steady, breathing proper and every body part in sync. He ran a 4.2 40 – in high school.

Ginn had one of his best seasons in 2013, his only season with the Carolina Panthers. He returned kickoffs and punts, of course. When Ginn awaits a kickoff or a punt, nobody makes a run to their refrigerator because something great could happen. He also averaged 15.4 yards per reception and scored five touchdowns, three of them of 36 or more yards. When Newton stepped into a throw, you knew where the ball was going.

After the season, you knew where Ginn was going. Arizona flung a $2.25 million bonus and a 3-year, $9.75 million contract at him. Of the free agents the Panthers lost, it was Ginn they most wanted to keep. But they couldn’t keep up with the Cardinals.

Arizona drafted John Brown, and he supplanted Ginn at receiver. Ginn caught only 14 passes, none of them longer than 27 yards. The Cardinals cut him Feb. 23 and he moved with characteristic speed back to Carolina. He signed a two-year contract two weeks after he was jettisoned.

“Oh, man, it was great for somebody to come back to get you and for a player to want to come back,” Ginn says Thursday as he walks off the practice field. “The players here are like brothers and the coaches are like fathers. They welcomed me with open arms, the whole community did.”

Can you explain what happened last season?

“No, I can’t really,” says Ginn. “There’s always a business end of it. I just played my role. Don’t mess your name up and don’t become a distraction even though you want a ball or two thrown your way. You just to go out and continue to do what they ask you to and you get good blessings like this.”

This is Bank of America Stadium, which looms in front of him. This is again working with Carolina receivers coach Ricky Proehl.

Ginn had three nondescript seasons with San Francisco before coming to the Panthers. Last season the desert treated him no better. Why?

“For the ability that this guy has and the speed that he has it just shocked me that other teams aren’t using him,” says Proehl. “As a cornerback you have to respect his speed and his ability to run by you and that opens so many routes underneath. And then send him over the top. And it just shocks me that teams haven’t done that. Coach (offensive coordinator Mike) Shula did such a great job and that’s what we’re going to do again.”

Proehl doesn’t see Ginn as a fast guy who plays receiver. He sees Ginn as a receiver who is fast.

But is he still the fastest player on the roster?

“Well, I have to take that,” Ginn says. “I’m going to be the OG (Original Gangster, not Old Guy). I take nothing away from Philly (Corey Brown). He’s a great guy and he’s a Buckeye. But I got to be the top dog.”

This season will be Brown’s second with the Panthers. Like Ginn, Brown played for Ohio State. Unlike Ginn, Brown is 23. Ginn might be biased. Proehl isn’t.

“Hooo,” says Proehl. “There are some fast ones now: Philly, Colin (Jones) and Stephen Hill. But Ted and Philly are smooth. When they run, their head doesn’t move. They’re off the charts, man. They look like they’re on those airport moving sidewalks.”

Who’s the fastest Panther?

“I think I would put my money probably on Teddy,” Proehl says.

That’s a good bet.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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