You might have forgotten about him, since the Carolina Panthers rumbled their way to the Super Bowl despite his absence, but Kelvin Benjamin is back. The Panthers’ first round draft pick in 2014, who gained 1,008 yards and caught nine touchdown passes as a rookie, tore his ACL during a joint training camp practice with the Miami Dolphins last season when he tried to juke a defender in a one-on-one drill. Just like that, Cam Newton’s biggest weapon was sidelined, leaving many to wonder who in the world would step up and become Newton’s No. 1 target on offense.
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Guys like Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. quieted that noise, but when the Panthers offense sputtered in the Super Bowl, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the presence of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin would have made a huge difference against an almost impenetrable Denver Broncos defense.
But 2016 is a new year, and Benjamin is back and looking chiseled to boot. In 2015, before that fateful training camp, Benjamin caught some flack for showing up to Organized Team Activities 8 or 9 pounds overweight, for which coach Ron Rivera even called him out in the media. Now, with a year of rehab behind him, Benjamin has both slimmed down and added muscle to his chest, per ESPN’s Britt McHenry.
And though there’s little information out there about the workouts Benjamin went through, we got a glimpse of his new and improved body in an Instagram video he posted a few months ago, in which he balances on a BOSU ball while catching passes with one hand like it was nothing.
Back at the Panthers’ first day of training camp on Thursday, Benjamin provided a reminder of how talented he is, both in how he controls his body and his glue-like hands, when he ran a quick out route to the sideline and snared a ball thrown slightly over his head.
Newton has to be salivating about finally getting Benjamin back on the field.