CHARLOTTE – Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. revived his career with the Panthers in 2013. He didn't want to leave after just one season in Carolina.
"It was very hard to go," Ginn said. "But we all understood why."
The wide receiver was an unrestricted free agent, and the Panthers were cap-challenged. Ginn, who was coming off his most productive season as a receiver since 2008 with 36 catches for 556 yards and a career-high five touchdowns, was in demand, and the Arizona Cardinals had the financial resources available.
So Ginn signed a lucrative deal the Cardinals. He recorded 14 receptions for 190 yards as Arizona's seventh-leading receiver and was fourth in the NFC with a 10.7-yard punt return average for the second consecutive season. His 2014 season ended at Bank of America Stadium, where the Cardinals lost to the Panthers in an NFC Wild Card Playoff. On February 23, he was released.
Ginn was once again a free agent, and he knew where he wanted to go.
"When I walked off the field and Melvin (White) – one of my good friends – hit me and made me fumble, I knew right then and there that it was a possibility I would be playing in Bank of America Stadium again," Ginn said with a smile. "I just tried to put a return (in the Panthers') ear. If we get an opportunity, let's reunite."
Ginn signed a two-year contract with the Panthers on Monday.
"It was a no-brainer of where I wanted to go and who I wanted to play with," Ginn said.
Said general manager Dave Gettleman: "We are very pleased to have Ted back. He gives us big play ability as a punt returner and a wide receiver. He still has his speed. He can still fly."
Ginn fills two immediate needs for Carolina. He can stretch defenses vertically, and he's a proven punt returner. In 2013, he set a team record with a 12.2-yard punt return average. The Panthers made it clear to Ginn that he was just what they needed.
"Everybody didn't say what they (the Panthers) said. Other teams were like, 'We might need you to do this. Or we could have you do this,'" Ginn explained. "I'm not saying that it's etched in stone what I'm going to do here. But the weight (of what they said) is greater here than other teams. But I know I have to come in and work."
And he knows the Panthers and wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl can get the best out of him.
"When I got here two years ago, Ricky welcomed me with open arms," Ginn said. "He didn't take my talent for granted. He enhanced it. That's where family and coming back means a lot."
Ginn has the utmost respect for Proehl, head coach Ron Rivera and Gettleman, and he built strong relationships with teammates in his short time in Carolina. He feels like he's reuniting with family.
"It's a blessing to have a family like this that is willing to give me another opportunity to be on their ball club," Ginn said. "(Signing today) was happiness. It was joy. All smiles. That's all you can ask for."