Benjamin puts Panthers in his past in making move to Buffalo
By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Be it clothes or memories, whatever personal items newly acquired Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin left behind in Carolina after being traded by the Panthers are going to stay there.
Benjamin said he split Charlotte, North Carolina, for western New York so fast he had little time to talk to anybody, including Panthers management.
And he was so eager to become familiar with his new surroundings and Buffalo’s playbook during the team’s weekend off that Benjamin turned down coach Sean McDermott’s offer to go home to pick up any extra belongings.
“I just want to be a better person, man, a better player, better teammate, holding myself to a higher standard,” Benjamin said. “At the end of the day, I’m here, I’m happy, I’m excited. Right now just moving forward.”
By addressing reporters and making his practice debut on Monday , Benjamin finally got several firsts out of the way six days since the Panthers traded him in exchange for Buffalo’s third- and a seventh-round picks in next year’s draft.
The delays were the result of the timing of the deal, which was completed two days before Buffalo’s 34-21 loss at the New York Jets on Thursday night.
Benjamin had no time to prepare for the Jets, but now gets 10 days to get ready to play Sunday, when Buffalo (5-3) hosts New Orleans (6-2).
Benjamin had little interest revisiting his past and determining what made him expendable in Carolina, where he established himself as Cam Newton’s No. 1 target since being selected in the first round of the 2014 draft.
“To tell you the truth, I really wasn’t surprised,” he said of being traded. “I kind of felt the offense was going toward a different direction.”
The Bills, by comparison, could use all the help they can get in adding Benjamin to a patchwork passing attack which ranks 30th in the NFL.
Benjamin immediately becomes Buffalo’s leader with 475 yards receiving, which account for nearly a third of the team’s 1,628-yard total. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin also provides Taylor a large target Buffalo has lacked since tight end Charles Clay was sidelined by a left knee injury against Cincinnati on Oct. 8.
“You throw it anywhere close to him and he’s going to make the play,” said Bills third-string quarterback Joe Webb, who spent the previous three seasons in Carolina. “Kelvin is going to help us a lot, a whole lot.”
Clay has resumed practicing and is in position to return Sunday, though the Bills could be minus No. 2 receiver Zay Jones, who hurt his left knee against the Jets.
Benjamin is in line to play opposite starter Jordan Matthews.
“He’s a receiver that makes our offense better, and I have confidence in the group of receivers before we brought in Kelvin,” said McDermott, who spent the previous six seasons as Carolina’s defensive coordinator. “Now, I see the group improving because of Kelvin.”
Benjamin said he doesn’t feel any added pressure joining a team that is off to a better than expected start and in contention to end a 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports.
“Not at all because they’ve been winning without me,” he said. “I’m just coming in to help. That’s all I want to do.”
Easing Benjamin’s transition are numerous familiar faces in Buffalo. Aside from McDermott and Webb, fullback Mike Tolbert, cornerback Leonard Johnson and general manager Brandon Beane have previous ties to Carolina. Benjamin also grew up with Bills receiver Deonte Thompson in central Florida.
By chance, Benjamin already gained a good first impression of his new team during what happened to be the closing minutes of his final game with the Panthers. Benjamin was on the sideline while Carolina was running out the clock of a 17-3 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 30. Benjamin glanced at the video scoreboard to see a replay of the Bills mobbing receiver Brandon Tate after making a 24-yard catch during Buffalo’s 34-14 rout of Oakland.
“I saw the play and I was just like, ‘Damn,'” he recalled, impressed by how tight-knit the Bills appeared.
“You can see the energy,” Benjamin said. “The time is now. You can see it.”
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