If your a Panthers fan then you have probably heard about the recent comments from Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera regarding 2nd year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and the possible reasoning for his hamstring issues during mini camp & OTA’s in 2015.
I thought today we could dive into these supposed issues and try to separate the perception the media pundits having been feeding a lot of you and the reality of the situation. In case you missed the quote from Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera then you can find it below.
“It could be as simple as weight,” coach Ron Rivera said Thursday. “He did come in a little heavy and he had to work himself into shape. Or diet or something. We’re going to take a look at it and make sure it’s not a chronic issue with him. He’s too good a football player to have on the sideline.”
As a fan immediately your disappointed when you hear about any player coming into practices overweight. This is especially true when it’s your new star number one wide receiver who is attempting to replace a Panthers legend.
It also does not help matters that these were possible concerns dating back to the draft and Florida State as stated below in these quotes from articles on ESPN in 2012 by David M. Hale and NFL.COM in 2014 by Chase Goodbread.
Benjamin oozed potential, but the reality of his first year at Florida State wasn’t nearly as impressive. Where fans saw power, speed and certainty, head coach Jimbo Fisher saw an overweight receiver, ambivalent about success and unprepared for the challenges ahead.
Knowing he wouldn’t play as a freshman, Benjamin often loafed through practices. His weight ballooned to nearly 260 pounds. The playbook was complex, and it didn’t hold his attention.
In the months since, Benjamin has shed nearly 20 pounds. He’s studied the playbook and focused on the details. He’s done his best to avoid reading the newspapers and message boards that fuel the legend.
Benjamin weighed in at 242 pounds, and told tallahassee.com that he’s 17 pounds heavier than where several NFL clubs would like to see him.
“They have what they want receivers to be, about 225,” Benjamin said. “It wouldn’t hurt if I dropped this weight and got down to 225. I think I would be faster, be more deadly.
That’s not an insiginificant amount of weight, and Benjamin was actually two pounds heavier Tuesday than he was at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.
It’s disappointing to the fan because we know these are athletes who are paid millions to stay in shape especially when it’s time to start working towards the season. Even though that is the standard most fans hold professional athletes to I feel like some are making something out of nothing in regards to this situation.
Initial reactions immediately lead to a lot of fans blasting KB for coming into OTA’s overweight and to a lot of knee jerk reactions thanks to media perception of the situation running with this as headlines.
Is this the reality of the situation and is it really as big of a deal as it has been made out to be? No. The fact is that 8 to 9 pounds or even 5 will be a easy amount to shed especially once Training Camp starts in that August Spartanburg heat.
If there is one thing I know from visiting Training Camp in Spartanburg it is that it will be hot. Something that was missing from last year’s unusually cool and rainy camp in Spartanburg. Given the string of hot weather this year I doubt that we run into that anomaly of cool weather this year. Which will be good for shedding weight and building endurance.
When the first reports came out Benjamin was said to be 8 to 9 pounds over the weight the Panthers wanted him at as seen below in the piece from NFL.COM by Gregg Rosenthal and also reported by Jonathan Jones of the Observer.
Benjamin struggled with his weight at Florida State and a source told Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer that Benjamin came in 8-9 pounds overweight. Rivera stressed that Benjamin has been working hard to get back on the field, but he did miss his third straight day of minicamp on Thursday.
When in reality at the time of these hamstring issues KB had already shed 3 to 4 pounds of that weight and was only 5 pounds over the weight the Panthers wanted him at. In a interview with the Observer GM Dave Gettleman addressed the supposed “weight issue” and said it was “much ado about nothing”.
The comments drew headlines that according to Gettleman, as he told the Charlotte Observer on Thursday, were “much ado about nothing.”
Gettleman added that Benjamin, listed at 245 pounds, was only five pounds over his playing weight. That much could have been lost in one full practice as temperatures pushed 100 degrees.
While it’s uncertain if this was a motivation tactic by Rivera by releasing this info to the media or not, for now that is unknown. The fact is these comments had a negative effect on the public perception of KB and his work ethic. When in reality this should have never been a issue from the start and should have never been a headline.
Had KB been 20 pounds overweight like the reports from back when he played at FSU then this would be concerning but the fact that fans are freaking out and questioning Benjamin’s work ethic over a few extra pounds is absurd.
When you look at Benjamin’s game film from his redshirt freshman year at Florida State you are reminded of how effective he was after shedding 20 pounds just prior to this season at FSU shown in the video below. During his redshirt freshman year KB had 30 receptions for 495 yards with 4 touchdowns while averaging 16.5 yards a reception.
Let that sink in that if he can shed 20 pounds and have that kind of production with less snaps during his redshirt freshman year then a extra few pounds is nothing with 3 to 4 months to go before the season. Now if this became a yearly habit of showing up to camp 10 to 15 pounds overweight then yes that would be concerning. As it sit’s now though the issue’s people have with KB coming in overweight are overblown and should not be as concerning as the media is making it.
The 5 pounds he is over will neither hurt or effect his game and I am expecting a big year from KB this season. The media needed a hot take headline to run with and either by mistake or purpose Rivera provided it. Was this a misstep on Rivera’s part? Yes. Did the media over blow this by trying to tie this back to Benjamin’s past at FSU and concerns from the Combine? Yes.
The fact that Dave Gettleman had to have a interview to clear up this perception proves that this was a misstep when talking to the media and the media looking for a headline to run with. Instead of focusing on 5 pounds Panther Nation you should be getting excited for 2015 and the reality that we will be lining up two giants on the outside with Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess who will cause havoc for opposing teams secondary’s. The 2015 season is shaping up to look like it will be a lot of fun for Panthers fans.