Will Carolina really miss Brandon LaFell?

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
8:00
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Wide receiver Brandon LaFell didn't stir up controversy when he was a member of the Carolina Panthers the last four seasons, so there's no reason to think he's doing it now with the New England Patriots.

But twice since the Patriots signed him some have questioned the sincerity of his remarks.

The first happened when LaFell initially was asked why he picked New England over Carolina in free agency. His response: "The chance to get the ball more, to play for a winning organization."

He wasn't taking a shot at Carolina, coming off a 12-4 season that included a victory over New England. He was just being honest. The Patriots have had 13 straight winning seasons. The Panthers haven't had consecutive winning seasons since entering the league in 1995.

In that same interview, when reminded of the year Carolina had, LaFell added: "Because I had a chance to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady). One day Cam [Newton] will be there, probably. I feel like it was a better chance to come up here and get more balls than there was with Carolina."

Facts. Nothing more.

But some people want to look at them as digs.

This became headlines. Ridiculous.

The latest came recently when LaFell told ESPN.com's Mike Reiss that New England's organized team activities were tougher than those he experienced at Carolina.

"The way we work, the way we practice, is all new [to me]," LaFell said. "It's not like we didn't work hard in Carolina, but we work a little harder here."

Or maybe it seems harder because LaFell admittedly is learning an entirely new system, so he's having to put extra effort into it.

But headlines?

Again, LaFell wasn't known as a controversial player at Carolina, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here. He also wasn't known as a clutch player, and as I've said several times over the past months he's not a player the Panthers will miss.

LaFell caught 167 passes for 2,385 yards and 13 touchdowns in four seasons. Jason Avant, one of the players brought in to replace him, had 194 catches for 2,347 yards and four touchdowns over the same time frame. Wash.

Jerricho Cotchery had 10 touchdowns last season -- three fewer than LaFell in four years -- and only three less catches (46) and 25 fewer yards (602) than LaFell a year ago. Wash. Maybe even a win for Carolina when you consider the number of big plays Cotchery has made over his career.

LaFell may flourish under Brady. Many receivers do. The Patriots want to throw the ball more. The Panthers want to run the ball more.

LaFell made the right choice for his career. He didn't all of a sudden become controversial.

The Panthers have first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin and a lot of good, young talent. It's time to move on.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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