Ron Rivera defends Kelvin Benjamin from ‘unfair’ criticism over weight

By Jesse Reed

One of the more prevalent storylines coming out of the Carolina Panthers’ offseason program has been the shape of receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Or rather, that he’s not in good shape at all.

Head coach Ron Rivera got this particular ball rolling last month when he mentioned he was “concerned” that Benjamin showed up to offseason workouts out of shape.

Then a short video of Benjamin running a route during practice sparked this narrative all the more, as the receiver looked less than sleek and speedy.

Another social media post amplified this all the more. It showed Benjamin wearing a too-small jersey, looking a bit pudgy to boot.

Well, Rivera has had enough.

Speaking to the media Thursday, the head coach defended his player, saying a lot of the criticism has been “unfair.”

“A lot was made about his weight early on. I thought that was unfair because this is all voluntary,” Rivera said, via ESPN’s David Newton. He’s worked himself into shape. His route running has been very sharp. His ball catching has been real good. The other day he made a spectacular one-handed catch over the middle that shows you what he’s capable of doing.”

If this was a one-time issue with Benjamin, we’d agree the criticism he’s getting would be unfair. Unfortunately, weight problems have plagued the receiver since even before his college playing days at Florida State. It’s not the first time he’s struggled to show up in shape with Carolina, either.

So with that in mind, especially since Rivera is the one who made his criticism about Benjamin’s weight public, there clearly is a valid reason to be concerned.