Ray-Ray McCloud plans to be the coffee bean Carolina's return game needs


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers claimed explosive wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud from the Buffalo Bills for one reason above all else.

"Essentially, he's going to get a chance right off the bat to be our returner," general manager Marty Hurney said.

Hurney has been keeping an eye on McCloud since he attended the NC State-Clemson game in Raleigh back in 2017.

That's when McCloud did this to the Wolfpack.

"I go back to watching him at Clemson. He's got some pretty explosive return ability," Hurney said. "He brings us a different skillset at returner as far as the ability to have some big returns."

Buffalo drafted the 5-foot-10, 190-pound McCloud in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. If they hadn't, the Panthers very well might have.

The Panthers also got a closer look at McCloud when the Bills came to Spartanburg for a pair of joint practices a few weeks back.

"He's a guy that we knew a little bit about," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We liked him coming into the draft, just didn't get an opportunity to get him here. We saw some things that he did through training camp and the games he played, and we just feel that he's someone that can come in and contribute."

McCloud played in 10 games as a rookie, recording five catches for 36 yards. He also returned four punts for 20 yards. He returned 25 punts for 303 yards and that one memorable touchdown during his final college season at Clemson.

Hurney said McCloud can also contribute as a slot receiver, but special teams will clearly be his opportunity to make a big impact.

"Whatever they ask me to do I'm willing to do it," McCloud said after his first Panthers practice Monday.

McCloud is happy to be back in Carolina. He's not far from his old college stomping grounds, and speaking of which, he passed along part of the message he received from Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney after the Panthers added him to the roster.

"Be a coffee bean."

Wait, what?

So here's the story …

Swinney had motivational speaker Damon West talk with the Tigers a few years ago (West played quarterback at North Texas and was sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2009 for meth-influenced burglary, but was paroled after seven years). West shared something he learned behind bars with the players, to imagine prison as a boiling pot of water and three things that go in: carrot, egg and coffee bean.

"Egg will harden, carrot will soften, coffee beans spread," McCloud explained. "Spread your energy and go be the playmaker you are."

Or go be the coffee bean you are?

"That's the plan," McCloud said.

View photos from Monday's practice of Week 1 as the Panthers prepare to face the Rams.