by Matt Corral unexpected fall in the third lap of the NFL draft left on Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback with a healthy dose of motivation as he begins his professional career.
“Honestly, I had a big chip on my shoulder before – but it just got bigger,” Corral said Friday after his first minicamp practice.
Corral traveled to Las Vegas to participate in the NFL Draft festivities last month, but left the Green Room after the first night his name was not called. He never came back. He spent the second night in a nearby hotel room with his family while he waited – and waited – to be selected.
It didn’t happen until the 94th overall pick when the Panthers, a needy quarterback, traded in the bottom half of the third round for him, ending what the former Mississippi signalman called “a roller coaster of emotions”.
“I’ve never really been happy and sad at the same time,” Corral said of the phone call. “I’ve never felt this before.”
Corral provided no explanation for the free fall.
He addressed a report from the NFL Network shortly after the draft that attributed teams that had let him down because he had “drinking and related problems” in his past.
“I don’t know where it came from,” Corral said. “It’s one of those things that came out. It was honestly the first time I heard that. It’s not something I can control.”
Panthers coach Matt Rhule played down the reports, saying the team spoke to his roommate, teammates and coaches – and the comments were “you’re going to love it”.
“I’m more interested in the problems people have now than the problems they’ve overcome,” Rhule said. “I certainly don’t want to be judged on what I was like at 18, 19 or 20 (years old). We’ve all been through things in life.”
While Corral’s fall from a potential first-round pick cost him millions off his rookie contract, the reality is he’s landed a place where he has a shot at long-term success. The Panthers do not have an established quarterback.
Sam Darnold struggled last year with 13 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions and his grip on the starting spot is tenuous at best. PJ Walker is the only other returning QB. Rhule said having all of Carolina’s offensive players learning a new system under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo helps “level the playing field” for rookies.
Rhule reiterated that the Panthers could always add a veteran quarterback under the right circumstances.
Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield is among those the Panthers might consider, but only if the Browns were willing to pay a large chunk of his salary. The same goes for Jimmy Garoppolo of San Francisco.
The Panthers are already on the hook for $18.9 million in cap money after landing the fifth-year option on Darnold’s contract last year, and they can’t afford another high-priced signalman.
Rhule sees Darnold as the starter and plans to bring Corral in slowly, allowing him time to transition from playing in a prevalent college offense to a more conventional NFL system.
Corral said his immediate goal is to position himself to compete, but that’s not his biggest concern right now.
“All that matters is knowing the playbook,” Corral said. “If I can know the playbook, I’ll be ready to play. … Of course my mentality is to be the starter, but right now I’m trying to make that 53-man roster.”
Panthers rookie offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu said he liked what he saw on Corral’s first day in the squad.
“Cool, calm and collected,” Ekwonu said. “Going through the walkthroughs this morning, you could see the balance in the pocket and kind of feel like it’s ready for the job.”
Rhule said the Panthers love the Corral moxie.
“The way he throws the ball, his vision, his output and his timing, we just thought it would pass at that level,” Rhule said.
Associated Press report
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