Panthers WR Ted Ginn Jr. more interested in Super Bowl than revenge

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had a message for Arizona wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. after last year’s first-round playoff victory over the Cardinals.

“Leave your stuff in the visitor’s locker room," Davis told Ginn.

Ginn admittedly left Carolina following the 2013 season to “chase the check" in Arizona. That the Panthers didn’t have enough room under the salary cap to compete with the three-year, $9.75 million deal the Cardinals offered made it an easy decision.

But there were rumblings even before Carolina beat the Cardinals in the playoffs that Ginn would be released. Ginn caught only 14 passes for 190 yards, which made him expendable.

Maybe even washed up after eight seasons.

But the Panthers didn’t think so. They saw what Ginn’s speed did for the Panthers' receiving game in 2013, when the former Ohio State star caught 36 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns. They saw what his experience did for the punt-return game.

They wanted him back.

The two-year, $4.2 million deal Ginn received to return to Charlotte might have been the bargain of the offseason.

Ginn led all Carolina wide receivers with 44 catches for 739 yards and 10 – yes, 10 – touchdowns. He was a big reason the Panthers led the league in scoring (31.2 points per game).

So why did he succeed here when he didn’t at Arizona?

“I don’t know," Ginn said on Monday as he prepared to face the Cardinals in Sunday’s NFC title game. “That’s one of those questions that one day, when I meet the man upstairs, he’ll answer for me."

Ginn plays with a chip on his shoulder.

He won’t admit that Sunday’s game is personal any more than he would admit there was added incentive in 2013 when he face the San Francisco 49ers, the team that employed him the previous three seasons.

But when Ginn returned a punt 25 yards against the 49ers, he expressed himself more than normal by putting a little extra spin on the ball when he released it.

“Everything about me is to the side," Ginn said. “I’m going out and playing for the Panthers. We’re going to have fun while we’re doing it."

Ginn in some ways personifies the chip the Panthers' players have had on their shoulders all season. Many of the same critics who doubted Carolina could be successful after leading wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp proclaimed Ginn’s career done a year ago.

“You lose a 6-5 guy and you start playing with all 6-foot guys and still making it do what it do, it will make us a little chippy, it will makes us a little eager to fight more," Ginn said.

“We were chalked out already. We were already erased. The Carolina Panthers weren’t going to be able to do nothing. And my guys stepped up and we fought."

He was asked if that described him. “It’s a lot about everybody over here," Ginn said, looking around to the lockers of the other Carolina receivers.

But Ginn made it clear Sunday is more about getting to the Super Bowl than anything personal between him and the Cardinals.

“This is the NFL," he said. “I’m just going out and playing football. The next guy is the Arizona Cardinals. Hey, what happened to me a year ago is nothing to do with Sunday."