CHARLOTTE, N.C. – This offseason, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robbie Anderson has done a lot of what he said is “thinking out loud’’ – and occasionally deleting those thoughts – which created plenty of buzz on Twitter.
He indicated he didn’t want the team to trade for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield during the NFL draft when general manager Scott Fitterer explored the possibility, and last weekend he suggested retirement was a possibility.
He explained those thoughts for the first time Wednesday, as the Panthers completed the second day of a three-day mandatory minicamp.
On responding to a tweet that the Panthers were trying to trade for Mayfield (to compete with incumbent starter Sam Darnold) with the comment “Nooooo,’’ Anderson said: “I said what I said. Just trying to be a good teammate to my quarterback. That’s it. Just trying to defend the guy who is my quarterback. You understand? That’s it.’’
Asked if he felt Darnold, his teammate for two seasons with the New York Jets and one with the Panthers, had been defended enough during a career that has seen him go 17-32 as a starter, Anderson said: “I mean, as of now, that’s my quarterback. I’ve got to make him right and stand up for him.’’
Asked what his response would be if the Panthers acquired Mayfield, which team officials haven’t ruled out as a possibility, Anderson said: “It’ll be what it is, you know.’’
He didn’t expand. He just said his tweet wasn’t meant to be personal toward Mayfield.
“I don’t know Baker,’’ Anderson said.
Anderson’s eyebrow-raising offseason on social media took another twist Saturday when he tweeted, then deleted, “Ain’t gone lie. Thinking about retiring.’’
Anderson made it somewhat clear Wednesday he has no plans to retire.
“I’m here, right?’’ he said.
If he changes his mind, he would have had to return the $11.77 million he received in March when the Panthers converted $8.97 million of his salary and a $2.8 million roster bonus into a signing bonus to clear about $6 million in cap space.
Anderson stayed home in Florida and missed Phase 3 of offseason workouts when training moved to the field, which gave his initial tweet some credibility. It at least got the attention of Darnold, as the Panthers learn a new system under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
“At first, it was kind of a surprise,’’ Darnold said.
Asked whether he took Anderson’s tweet seriously or it was Anderson being Anderson, Darnold wouldn’t go there. Anderson already had changed the spelling of his first name from Robby to Robbie and his jersey number from 11 to 3, which he wore in high school.
“There’s a lot of ways to look at that,’’ Darnold said. “I’m not going to dive into that.’’
Neither would coach Matt Rhule, who coached Anderson at Temple and twice fought to get him back into school to make the NFL a possibility.
“I don’t pay attention to anybody’s tweets,’’ Rhule said. “People tweet what they want. Even when I was a college coach for a long time, I’ve learned … I just let things slide.’’
But Rhule believes the 29-year-old Anderson, who told trainers Wednesday he wasn’t physically able to practice, will follow a subpar 2021 season with a “ton of production’’ in McAdoo’s system. He went so far as to say the offense was “perfect’’ for a player like Anderson, who can play all three receiver spots.
“In hiring Ben, one of the things that was really important was I don’t want to just utilize one or two players,’’ said Rhule, who has been emphatic all offseason he doesn’t want the offense to be all about running back Christian McCaffrey.
Anderson was a productive player in 2020 with a career-best 95 catches for 1,096 yards. He followed that with only 53 catches for 519 yards last season after getting a two-year, $29.5 million extension.
Improvement is what Anderson wants now. One reason he changed his jersey number was “it represents new beginnings.’’
“That’s how I feel in a lot of aspects in my life,’’ he said. “A lot of growth, elevation. It’s saucy. It looks better than 11.’’