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Barry Hirstius

STILL BURNING: Saints WR / KR Ted Ginn Jr. Might Be “Old”, But Not Slow

For most NFL players such as 11th year veteran and Saints #3 WR Ted Ginn, Jr., after having played for over an entire decade in the NFL and now on the other side of age 30, they usually -- fairly or unfairly -- earn the label of being "old" by most present day League-standards, at least as far as where RB's and WR's are concerned.

But when asked yesterday if he felt that he was still fast enough to be considered to be within the Top 3 of the fastest players on the Saints roster, Ginn left no doubt whatsoever who on the team deserved the title of being THE FASTEST player at the moment: himself.

Photo courtesy of Fletcher Mackel, WDSU-TV New Orleans

QUESTION: Would you say you're at least in the Top 3 fastest players on the team?

Ginn: "Let me answer that real simple: I’m Top 1 though."

After the assembled media burst into laughter, the 31-year old Ginn -- who turns 32 next April -- expanded on his comment so as not to come off sounding cocky but to lay out just why he still feels at his age that he can still put on the "after burners" as good as anyone currently playing in the League.

"I mean you got some fast guys out there. You got TommyLee (Lewis), you got AK (Alvin Kamara), even Corey Fuller can 'go' a little bit, so I see a lot of speed around here."

Ginn is under no illusions though that the Saints didn't sign him just to "replace" the speed that the team lost when they traded star WR and the team's fastest player Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots in the off-season, but to make a far more important impact: giving the team a legitimate threat at kick returner that they haven't had since trading away former RB / KR Darren Sproles to the Eagles in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

"Returning punts and kicks wasn't what I wanted to be known for, but that's what's kept me in this League. I haven't been here now for 11 years because I can run a slant or a post route or anything like that, but because I'm a special teamer."

"And if you're a special teamer, you're almost like 2 or 3 guys (as a kick returner, a blocker, or a "gunner" on kick and punt coverage) on the field at one time".

Ginn -- who can still run a 40-yard dash in the 4.3 range now 11 years into his NFL career, reportedly was clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40 while he starred in college at Ohio State, where he was also a track and field star.

He even claims to have gone "unofficially" timed as low as 4.22 seconds.

Ginn, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, was the U.S. high school national champion in the 110 meter hurdles and recorded the best time in the nation as a senior when he won the state title for the second consecutive year in 2003.

But the sport of football was his first love, where he actually was known for playing on both sides of the ball and played defensive back, quarterback and wide receiver.

Ginn played for his father, Ted Ginn Sr., in high school at Glenville High School in Cleveland, where he would be selected as the 2003 USA Today Defensive Player of the Year, a 2003 Parade All-American, and named the 2003 SuperPrep National Defensive Player of the Year.

Ginn then went on to a become to a perrenial candidate for the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State, where he became a 3-time All-American (2004, 2005, 2006) as both a wide receiver and a kick returner.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

He actually could have even trained for and eventually competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China for the U.S. Track and Field team, but chose to focus squarely on football and a future career in the NFL.

Ginn was drafted with the 9th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by Miami, but struggled in his 3 seasons with the Dolphins and earned the reputation that has since followed him throughout his pro career while playing the wide receiver position: HOLDING ON to the ball.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire

In the 2009 season despite tying an NFL record with two kickoff returns for touchdowns of 100 yards or more (one of 100 yards and the second of 101) that year, Ginn become a pariah in Miami --- when he dropped several passes that included one in the 4th quarter during a last minute potentially game-tying drive against the Patriots, and finished the year 4th in the League in dropped passes.

Ginn was traded to the 49ers in the 2010 off-season, where he stayed for 3 years (2010-2012), before signing with the Saints' NFC South division rival Carolina Panthers in 2013 NFL Free Agency. Ginn arguably has his best NFL season as a wide receiver that year with the Panthers. He put up a career high 5 touchdown receptions on the season, while also racking up 556 total receiving yards.

But only after one season, Ginn left the Panthers signed with Arizona in 2014 Free Agency; where he quickly fell out of favor because of --- you guessed it -- dropped passes.

After the season that quickly turned sour in Arizona, Ginn then returned to Carolina in 2015 Free Agency, where he spent the past 2 seasons as the team's #3 WR and kick returner.

In 2015, Ginn finished the season with 44 catches for 739 yards and a career high 10 touchdowns. Ginn's efforts as a receiver and return specialist helped the Panthers reach Super Bowl 50, where Ginn had 4 catches for 74 yards and 3 punt returns in the loss to the Denver Broncos.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Last season in 2016, Ginn had 752 total receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on 54 receptions (third in all three categories), along with 593 return yards as the Panther's leading punt and kick returner.

The Saints then of course signed Ginn to a three-year, $11 million contract in March, but make no mistake: even though they expect to utilize Ginn as a deep threat in the passing game, his main contribution in 2017 will likely come on special teams as the team's designated kick and punt returner.

However, besides issues with dropped passes; Ginn hasn't always had cleanly fielded punts.  In 10 seasons, he has 14 fumbles on punt returns -- some while trying to secure the ball in flight as it comes down to him, or forced fumbles by a tackler after he begins running it back upfield.

Those are issues that he will have to prove to new Special Teams coordinator Bradford Banta, that he can "clean up". Otherwise Ginn could find his role on the team both on special teams and within the offense, reduced rather quickly.

Meanwhile during this first week of Camp, Ginn has been flashing that world-class speed while lined up at WR in the Saints offense, that still makes him a threat for an "old guy". For a lack of a better term: he's still "burning".

For Ginn playing the WR position, the biggest problem has never been about talent --- but it has been about consistency.

The lingering dropped passes issue has always been a recurring problem for him, and the Saints coaching staff is hoping that recently-returned WR's coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson can help Ginn out in that regard. 

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Advocate

If Ginn is able to fine-tune his technique as a WR, then he could potentially become an even BIGGER weapon for the Saints, then perhaps even they have anticipated.

And if nothing else, one thing is crystal clear: Ted Ginn, Jr. might be "old" ---- but he ain't slow............

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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