Ted Ginn Jr. has said all the right things since his return this week to the Bay Area. The Carolina wide receiver has been all smiles while he said them.
And why not? Ginn is in the Super Bowl now, not as an afterthought, but as one of quarterback Cam Newton’s hired guns. The frustration and disappointment Ginn experienced with the 49ers is in his rear-view mirror, precisely where he wants it.
“Man, it’s the best,” Ginn said. “Coming to Levi’s Stadium, just being here, the weather … you can’t beat the Bay.”
Ginn beat it three years ago and hasn’t looked back since then.
In 2010, the 49ers acquired Ginn from the Miami Dolphins in return for a fifth-round draft pick. At the time, the price seemed like a bargain for a former ninth overall pick in the draft. But the Ohio State product was never a factor here. In three seasons, he started three games and caught 33 balls for one touchdown.
A number of factors conspired against Ginn in his Niners career. Coach Jim Harbaugh preferred a Big Ten-like, ground-and-pound offense that rarely took advantage of his ability to stretch the field. Part of the reason had to do with quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, who lacked the accuracy and/or arm strength to be successful downfield.
For his part, Ginn didn’t help himself with frequent mental lapses and dropped passes. As a kid, he was a slow learner who required special assistance in school.
Ask Ginn what changed between then and now, and he has a two-word answer.
“Cam Newton,” Ginn said. “That’s really it — Cam Newton.”
And if Newton is controversial for his celebration antics, Ginn loves him.
“It isn’t really about the ‘dab,’” he said. “It’s just about who [Newton] is. I believe that if it wasn’t for him, there is no Ted Ginn. You know, ever since I came here from 2013 to now, we had some great success, you know? Putting the ball in the air, you know? This year, just coming back and losing [Kelvin] Benjamin, you know, we knew that we had to step up as one and make it work and that’s what we did.”
Signed to a two-year, $4.2 million contract as a free agent last summer, Ginn got his chance when Benjamin tore an ACL in the preseason. He hasn’t stopped running with it since. There’s still a lot of all-or-nothin’ in his game — his 16.8-yards-per-catch and 10 touchdowns lead the team — but he has been more consistent than in the past.
If Ginn hasn’t overhauled his image as a one-trick speed receiver entirely, then at the ripe age of 30, he at least has tweaked it a bit. Clocked at 4.28 in the 40-yard dash college, the former track star remains on the short list of fastest players in the league — no small feat for a nine-year veteran.
“When you are in this game, you get labeled,” Ginn said. “Once you get labeled, that’s where they kind of put you until you do something different. Until this year came, I was labeled as a guy who had decent routes, who was fast but couldn’t catch the ball. This year, I had a couple drops, but that comes with the game.
“Here on this team, they kept us all together; kept us fine-tuned. They kept everybody into it, and no matter what is going on, they roll with the punches.”
Now, Ginn returns to a familiar area, if not venue. The game will be the second of his career at Levi’s Stadium, which he visited as a member of the Arizona Cardinals a season ago.
“It’s great to be back in the Bay,” Ginn said. “You know, my kids are here. They were born here. So it’s just great. There are a lot of memories here. I went to a Super Bowl with the Bay, you know? So it’s a great feeling to come back here.”