Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said last month that when players reported for voluntary workouts, Kelvin Benjamin showed up “a little heavy.” Everyone was still talking about Benjamin’s weight Tuesday, when video came out of Benjamin running routes during OTAs.
OK, we admit, Benjamin doesn’t run the quickest route here:
After the first couple days of OTAs, Rivera said Benjamin was making progress:
Rivera thinks some of the criticism of Kelvin Benjamin was unfair. Says he's working himself nicely back into shape.— Joe Person (@josephperson) May 25, 2017
And we agree: Everyone just needs to calm down.
1. It’s just OTAs
Benjamin looks slow coming out of his break, but that doesn’t really mean much on the first day of OTAs. Sometimes during OTAs and training camp, coaches will instruct players to not go full speed, so Benjamin may be drawing criticism for running the rep the way he was directed.
And it’s not just OTAs. It was the first day of OTAs. Every player should have some rust to knock off at this point.
2. Benjamin has been fighting his way back from injuries
Benjamin is a big guy at 6’5 and with a playing weight of 245 pounds. He’s never been fast. He’s not going to run this drill the same way that, say, his new teammate Curtis Samuel — who is 5’11, 196 pounds and is known for his speed — would.
His size isn’t the only factor. Benjamin hasn’t really gotten back to form since he missed the entire 2015 season after tearing his ACL in practice. Last season, hamstring injuries slowed him down, but he’s focused on getting his body ready for this season.
“I need to be in the best shape of my life. That’s what we’re getting to,” Benjamin said, via the team’s official website. “I have to get back to being dominant.”
3. Reports suggest Benjamin did fine on the first days OTAs
Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com said rookie cornerback Corn Elder had his work cut out for him against Benjamin:
It was an interesting debut for rookie cornerback Corn Elder, the Panthers' fifth-round draft choice. Shepard and Kelvin Benjamin both made nice catches technically at Elder's expense, but the rookie was right there and couldn't have done much more from a coverage standpoint. Benjamin also made another catch where, with the help of an accurate throw, the defense pretty much was powerless.
Benjamin earned praise on Wednesday for his performance on a ball that he didn’t even catch. According to Max Henson of Panthers.com, Benjamin dove for a catch that he couldn’t haul in, but Rivera “rushed over to applaud the impressive effort.”
4. We go through this with at least one player every offseason
Every year, one player seems to get fat shamed. In 2015, it was Jameis Winston. A photo of Winston working out shirtless went viral, and it turned out to be the result of an unflattering angle.
Last year, it was Tony Romo, who was coming off offseason collarbone surgery. He, too, wasn’t overweight.
This year, it’s Benjamin’s turn. Both Rivera and Benjamin have said that the wide receiver needs to get back to his play weight. But one video from the first day of workouts in May doesn’t mean Benjamin’s weight is going to be an issue for him in the fall.