Despite downplaying it this past week, Carolina Panthers receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had redemption on his mind when he faced his former team Sunday night.
After signing a three-year deal with the Cardinals in the spring of 2014, Ginn was released after just one season in the desert. So as much as he didn't want to make himself a storyline, his effect on the NFC championship made him one.
Midway through the first quarter, Ginn nearly broke a punt return, tripping on the turf after a 32-yard return. Six plays later, he zigzagged 22 yards for the Panthers' first touchdown. But his biggest contribution came late in the second quarter when he turned into a defender.
"Probably to me the play of the game was the missed throw that Cam Newton made to Ed Dickson going up the seam," coach Ron Rivera said. "He overthrew him and Patrick Peterson had an opportunity to return it. Low and behold Ted Ginn Jr. caught him from behind. That gave us the opportunity to make the next turnover."
After Ginn chased down Peterson, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw the first of his four interceptions and the Panthers took a commanding 24-7 lead into halftime.
“When you're in a dogfight like we were today, every play counts,” Ginn said. “When you're on the track, they always say move, and when they say that, you know somebody is coming. I just tried my hardest to go out and not stop on a play. Me going down and running him down to help us get an interception and give them zero points before the half ... that could have really turned this game around (for them).”
While Ginn was getting his revenge, fellow wideout Jerricho Cotchery was thankful for what the Cardinals discarded.
“The great thing about Arizona not wanting him was he came back to this place he was wanted and we know his skill set and we truly believe in him here. When you have someone who truly believes in you, you can just go out and play,” Cotchery said. “That’s why he was able to showcase his talents all year long.”
Ginn, who has had the two best seasons of his career in a Panthers' uniform, nearly doubled his career receiving touchdown total this season. In his first 120 career games, he caught 11 touchdown passes. In 2015, he added 10.
Ginn spent the early part of his career trying to find a place in the league. He found one with the Panthers in 2013 and then admitted he took the money in Arizona. Now back in Carolina, he's again found true happiness.
“I felt like deep down inside that (Arizona) felt like I couldn't do it and they sent me back out to the wolves,” Ginn said. “If it wasn't for Panther Nation, (Ron Rivera), (Dave Gettleman), (Jerry Richardson), and even (Cam Newton) being able to stand on the table and say we want this guy. All I could do was go out and play as hard as I can for 60 minutes, and that's what I tried to do.”