CHARLOTTE — Kelvin Benjamin certainly has not backed down from anyone or any expectation so far for Carolina.
When asked during a group interview last week after a Panthers practice what his expectations were for this season, Benjamin said simply: “Win the Super Bowl. Add on to my national championship ring.”
Benjamin, the Panthers’ top draft pick in May, won a national championship in college last season with Florida State. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he is supposed to give Cam Newton the big target that he has been lacking. Benjamin has been very impressive so far in practice.
A couple of the leaping grabs Benjamin has made in workouts have caused everyone on the practice field to take notice, although he remains a work in progress as a route runner. Even if Benjamin doesn’t start the regular-season opener, however, it is a sure thing he will come in for red-zone situations and try to take advantage of his height and athleticism on fade routes.
Newton has smartly started making a concerted attempt to bond with Benjamin. He took Benjamin to Georgia over the Memorial Day weekend, where they hung out on a boat, went swimming, played video games and ate to their heart’s content.
Benjamin was appreciative. “I want to get around an older guy who’s been here in the limelight,” he said of his new quarterback. “He’s trying to teach me things.”
The Panthers – who won 12 games and the NFC South title last season – don’t start training camp until late July in Spartanburg. By then, Newton should be fully healthy from his offseason ankle surgery.
How Benjamin fares when the Panthers put the pads on – and how quickly he and Newton gel on the field – will be one of camp’s key storylines. Benjamin has to play well quickly for this team to come anywhere near accomplishing that Super Bowl goal. Ideally, he turns into Muhsin Muhammad and not Dwayne Jarrett.
When asked if the Super Bowl really was possible, Benjamin laughed and said: “What?! It’s a football team, right? So it’s possible.”