Monday, March 27, 2023

Panthers Coral has ‘big chip’ on shoulder after draft collapses

CHARLOTTE, NC ( Associated Press) — Matt Coral’s unexpected fall in the third round of the NFL Draft has left the Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback with a good amount 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 on Friday after his first minicamp practice.

Coral traveled to Las Vegas last month to be part of the NFL Draft festivities, but left the green room after the first night when his name was not called. He never returned. He spent the second night with his family in a nearby hotel room waiting – and waiting – to be chosen.

It didn’t happen until the 94th overall pick when the quarterback-needed Panthers traded him in the bottom half of the third round to get what the former Mississippi Signals caller called a “roller coaster of emotion.”

“I’ve never really been happy and sad at the same time,” Coral said of the phone call. “I’ve never felt like this before.”

Coral offered no explanation for the free fall.

He addressed an NFL Network report shortly after the draft, blaming teams passing on him because he had “alcohol and related issues” in his past.

“I don’t know where it came from,” Coral said. “It’s one of those things that came out there. It was honestly the first time I heard it. It’s not something I can control.”

Panthers coach Matt Roulette dismissed those reports, saying the team spoke to his college roommates, teammates and coaches — and the response was “You’re going to love him.”

“I’m more interested in the issues people have now than the issues they’ve overcome,” Roulette said. “I definitely don’t want to be judged based on my age at 18, 19 or 20 (years). We’ve all gone through things in life.”

While Coral’s fall from a potential first-round draft pick cost him millions on his rookie contract, the reality is that he’s landed a spot where he has a high chance of long-term success. The Panthers don’t have an established quarterback.

Sam Darnold struggled last year with 13 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions and has the best of his grip on the starting position. PJ Walker is the only other returning QB. Roulette said it helps to “an even playing field” for the rookies that all of Carolina’s offensive players will be learning a new system under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

Roulette reiterated that the Panthers can still add an experienced quarterback in the right circumstances.

Baker Mayfield of Cleveland is among those the Panthers might consider, but only if the Browns were willing to forego a substantial portion of his salary. The same goes for Jimmy Garoppolo of San Francisco.

The Panthers are already on the hook for a cap money of $18.9 million after opting for a fifth-year option on Darnold’s contract last year, and they can’t afford another high-priced signal caller.

Roulette looked to Darnold as a starter and plans to gradually bring Coral along, giving him time to transition from playing in the sprawling offense to a more traditional NFL system in college.

Coral said his immediate goal is to set himself up for competition, but that isn’t his biggest concern right now.

“It all comes down to knowing the playbook,” Coral said. “If I can know the playbook, I’ll be ready to play. … Of course my mindset is to be a starter, but right now I’m just trying to get on that 53-man roster.”

Panthers hold off Ikem Ekwonu to tackle offensive attack Said that he liked what he saw in the huddle from the coral on the first day.

“Calm, calm and collected,” said Ekwonu. “Just going through the walkthrough this morning you can see the balance in the pocket and you feel like he’s ready for the position.”

Roulette said that Panthers love Coral’s Moxie.

“The way he throws the ball, his vision, his release and his timing, we thought it would transfer to this level,” Roulette said.


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