Despite a tumultuous three-year start to his NFL career in New York, Sam Darnold admitted Monday that it stung to be "unwanted" by the Jets this offseason, telling the Panthers' official website that he envisioned staying in the Big Apple "for a long time." The former first-rounder added that he was "relieved" to land in Carolina, however, and his new team has replied with an endorsement. In his first comments since the club dealt three picks to New York to acquire Darnold, Panthers coach Matt Rhule had high praise for his new signal-caller, highlighting Darnold's fit in the Carolina offense and insisting "we believe in Sam."
"We believe in his skill set. We believe in his approach," Rhule told reporters. "We're really hopeful that this will be a great place for him and this will be a tremendous time for him in his career ... You can just kind of see and feel his grittiness and toughness. I think his arm talent, his movement, are a great fit for the players that we have here that he'll be working with."
Asked later whether Darnold has already been named the Panthers' 2021 starter, Rhule stopped short of confirming as much but made it clear the ex-Jets QB is on track to take over under center.
"Obviously we brought Sam here because we think he can play at a high level, but I literally just met him 10 minutes ago," the coach said. "So much has to play out this offseason ... But we obviously do feel really good about Sam."
As for incumbent starter Teddy Bridgewater, who just last offseason signed a three-year, $63 million contract? Rhule confirmed recent reports that the Panthers have given the veteran permission to seek a trade and preached patience for a resolution.
"Teddy's still a member of this team," he said. "Our organization gave his representation permission to talk with some other people. So I think we're just gonna have to let that play out and see where it stands ... I believe that he can win as a quarterback in this league. I believe that whatever situation he walks into he's gonna walk into with a great attitude ... We'll have to wait and see how things play out for him and for us."