CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Sam Darnold arrived in Carolina on Monday for the first time, almost a week after being traded to the Carolina Panthers by the New York Jets.
Just walking into Bank of America Stadium, the quarterback can already tell the environment will be much different than his first three years in the NFL.
“The attention to detail with the culture here is a one of a kind,” Darnold said. “Being able to come in here and be on the same wave-length in terms of what the culture needs to be and spreading that throughout the organization … I know what the offense is capable of and I’m just excited to hit the ground running.”
Drafted third overall by New York just three years ago, Darnold showed flashes of being a franchise quarterback, but he never fully lived up to the hype, throwing for 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in 38 games.
The trade rumors began to circle Darnold this offseason with the Jets holding the second overall pick in the draft.
“That was the tough part for me, just because I’m a planner,” Darnold said. “I like to have things planned out and what the next step was going to be.”
Now, coming to a team that sees the potential in him, Darnold is hoping to make the impact in Carolina that he thought he could make in New York.
“Obviously, getting drafted as high as I did, my expectations were to go in there, play 20 years and win Super Bowls,” Darnold said. “That was the dream, but obviously it didn’t work out.”
Darnold admitted he believed he could still make it work in New York, but he’s no longer looking back on what could have been.
“Now that the trade has happened, obviously that frame of thinking doesn’t do me any good anymore,” he said. “It was bittersweet, but meeting the people around here and getting to know everyone, what the agenda is around here, I’m just very thrilled and excited to get going.”
The track record for first-round quarterbacks resurrecting their careers with a new team isn’t long, but the belief from the organization is there.
“We believe in Sam,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “We believe in his skill set. We believe in his approach … I don’t think there’s a game you watch, he doesn’t make a play where you don’t say ‘there it is.’ I think his arm talent, his movement, are a great fit for the guys here that he’ll be playing with.”
The Panthers will still have to figure out what’s next for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has two years remaining on his contract just a year after signing a three-year deal with the team, but it seems Carolina is all-in on Darnold.
“We’ll just have to let that play out,” Rhule said. “Obviously, we brought Sam here because we think he can play at a very high level.”