Panthers WR Murphy excited about change of scenery
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP)
The Panthers, hoping to add another downfield presence to take some pressure off No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith, acquired the speedy Murphy in a trade Monday with the Oakland Raiders. Murphy is hoping to beat out David Gettis for the team's third receiver spot.
Murphy called his new opportunity a ''blessing.''
''I like this offense because they like to sling it around and I like to go deep,'' Murphy said.
Murphy started 18 games with the Raiders in his first two seasons and caught 75 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns.
But injuries limited him to 15 catches last season and he fell out of favor with the Raiders organization.
Clearly, he was ready to move on.
''That was in the past,'' Murphy said of his time in Oakland. ''The Raiders are a great organization and I'm looking forward to the future. I'm excited about a fresh start.''
The future means a flashback to the past for Murphy.
He played two seasons with Newton at Florida before the quarterback departed for Blinn Junior College and then national fame at Auburn. Murphy said he got to know Newton during their time with the Gators and isn't surprised he turned out to be the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Murphy said he knew Newton was destined for greatness when he saw him.
''NFL ready,'' laughed Murphy when asked of his initial impressions of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton. ''As soon as he walked on campus, he was NFL ready. Me and my dad talked about that a lot. I mean, just how big his calves were. When you see him, he's just humungous. He looked like he was ready back then and he's always had the mentality of a winner.''
Newton was prominently featured in Carolina's offense last season, both as a passer and a runner.
He threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for 14 more, the most ever by an NFL quarterback.
Under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers became known as team that picked up yardage in big chunks. Murphy averaged 15.2 yards per catch in Oakland.
He said he's back to 100 percent after battling a groin injury that kept him out of five games last season and eager to recapture the spark that made him an effective receiver with the Raiders in 2009 and 2010.
''I always kind of play with a chip on my shoulder, that's just my mentality,'' said Murphy, 25. ''I kind of got away from that last year and started doubting myself. This year I know what I've got to do.''
First on the agenda is making the roster.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera faced Murphy for two seasons as San Diego's defensive coordinator and knows he can be tough to defend. But Rivera said Murphy will be in a battle with receivers like Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, Seyi Ajirotutu and rookie Joe Adams, a fourth-round pick who'll double as the team's starting punt returner.
''We like him,'' Rivera said of Murphy. ''He's a very capable football player, and he'll add competition to that position. We're excited about that.''
For Murphy, playing with Newton is reassuring.
But playing alongside his teenage idol Steve Smith is a dream come true.
''I've always been a fan,'' Murphy said Smith, Carolina's five-time Pro Bowl selection. ''I've tried to model my game after a lot of the receivers and he's one of them. I try to put the intensity into blocking and being aggressive to the ball. He's a great receiver and he plays hard. It's going to be cool playing with a guy I idolized growing up.''