At age 31, Ted Ginn Jr. enters his 10th year in the NFL coming off the best season he has ever had. Ginn ended the 2015 regular season with 10 receiving touchdowns, becoming the first Panthers wideout with 10 or more TDs since Steve Smith hit double digits in 2005. Ginn then had a strong postseason as well.
It’s quite possible Ginn won’t start at wide receiver for Carolina in 2016, however, because Kelvin Benjamin returns after missing all of last year because of a knee injury. Ginn will battle with Philly Brown and Devin Funchess for the No. 2 receiver role but will undoubtedly be used on deep routes a lot in three-wide sets and as a punt returner no matter whether he starts or not.
I talked with Ginn recently after a Panthers practice about the past few months and what he expects in 2016.
Q: You seemed to maintain your speed last season while posting the biggest numbers of your career. Will you be as fast as you have ever been in 2016 or is it inevitable to lose a step at some point?
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A: I’ve been maintaining my speed over all these years. I keep working at it. I don’t know what ‘lose a step’ means.
Q: Specifically, what have you been doing?
A: I stuck around, man. I stuck around the whole time. I kept coming in and got in a little extra work with the guys, the strength coaches and stuff. I pay a little more attention to my body now. I’m going into my 10th year and it’s really important for me to stay tuned in to my body. I’m feeling great.
Q: Given the return of Kelvin Benjamin – who had a 1,000-yard season as a rookie in 2014 before missing all of 2015 – what do you believe your role will be in 2016?
A: It ain’t up to me. It ain’t up to nobody but the coaches. I just go out and play football, and they put us in the positions they want to put us in, and we’re going to be able to do what we do. I’m happy that KB (Benjamin) is coming back. Then there’s Stephen Hill, and Philly (Brown) has got himself together, and (Devin) Funchess has been coming along. It’s going to be great to go out there with my guys and just have fun.
Q: The Panthers were No. 1 in the NFL in scoring in 2015. Can you repeat that stat?
A: Oh yeah. We’ve got to go out there and do stuff just like it’s Day One. We’ve got a lot of guys who have been in this offense for a couple of years now. The biggest thing now is just to stay in tune and stay on top.
Q: You were drafted No. 9 overall in 2007. Did you expect to last 10 years in the NFL when you entered the league?
A: Yes. That was one of my goals. I give big ‘ups’ to Carolina for calling me back last year (after Ginn had a very unsuccessful season at Arizona in 2014 that followed a very good 2013 for the Panthers) and picking me up again. They saw I still had a little juice left in me. I’m going to keep proving that I can still play this game and have fun while I do it.
Q: You and LeBron James are friends. Who is going to win the NBA title?
A: You know I’ve got to go with the hometown. I’m from Cleveland, born and raised, and I’m always going to root for Cleveland. Even before LeBron got there, I was a Cleveland fan. I believe they’ll get it together.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve done this offseason?
A: Spending time with my twins. They are 5 years old – a boy and a girl – and are about to graduate from kindergarten. They went to school here (in Charlotte) all year. It’s just a great deal to be part of their lives. My parents were a part of mine, my wife’s parents were part of hers, and we’re trying to instill in them to be the best they can be.
Q: You open the regular season Sept. 8 at Denver. Does the Super Bowl loss to Denver haunt you?
A: We can’t go back into the past. The only thing we can do is worry about the future. Hey man, it’s over with. They got their Super Bowl rings. We’ve just got to keep that camaraderie, that brotherhood. ... I believe everybody came back that was supposed to come back. And of the guys that didn’t come back, we can make up for them.
Q: One of the ones who didn’t come back was cornerback Josh Norman. You played with him in Mike Tolbert’s charity golf tournament last week. What was that like?
A: No matter what goes on, Josh is always going to be a brother. When you put hard work in together, that doesn’t change. I’m happy for him. I hope he goes up there to Washington and continues his success.
Q: The Panthers and Washington play each other Dec. 19. If Josh is covering you one-on-one on a deep route, who wins that battle?
A: (Pauses, smiles). We’ll just have to wait and see.