Travis Benjamin wanted to make one thing clear during OTAs.
The player you saw during his first year donning the lightning bolt isn’t the same you’ll see in 2017.
While the speedy wideout flashed his playmaking ability, tying for the NFL lead with six catches over 40 yards, he was plagued by nagging injuries the entire year. In fact, Benjamin didn’t return to the practice field until late in the offseason program.
Finally healthy, he entered training camp determined to showcase his playmaking ways.
So far, so good.
Benjamin has repeatedly been on the receiving end of some of camp’s biggest plays. His athletic, toe-tapping sideline grab on day one drew gasps from the crowd. He’s also shown off his patented speed, hauling in several of deep bombs from Philip Rivers.
“It feels good to be myself,” Benjamin simply said. “This whole offseason I was being myself in the weight room. Being myself while rehabbing. Now I’m being myself on the field. I wanted to come back stronger and showcase my talent. Just make sure I’m the best I can be during training camp.”
Both his quarterback and head coach have taken note.
“The key is, he’s just healthy,” Philip Rivers said. “I also think he’ll be the first to tell you that last year, he had to think a lot. Especially early on, learning the different route combinations and where we were putting him. How fast we do things. Now, Travis is sharp, but he had to think a little bit. But now, he’s got another year in this system, and he’s healthy. You see the confidence he has in his routes. He’s running and catching it well.”
“Travis looks smooth, man,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn added. “Travis looks like he’s healthy and ready to go.”
Benjamin’s bread and butter is the deep ball. Blessed with some of the best jets in the NFL, there are few who can maintain his top-end speed. The wideout is keenly aware he has the potential to break out a big play at any moment. He also recognizes how special those moments are.
A certain, audible gasp emanates from the crowd whenever he’s running deep with the ball in the air.
“It’s the best feeling,” Benjamin said. “There’s nothing like a deep (ball). Nothing at all. Whenever you get a deep ball or a deep pass, or even just getting it (short) and turning up field, you feel the energy. The excitement. The fans go crazy with those plays. Personally, it gets me going knowing I can bring that. It makes me want to catch another and do the same thing. I know if I do my job, and if I can turn my head around, the ball will be there. It’s about adjusting to the ball, catching it and turning up field.”
Acknowledging it’s important to move on, Benjamin is still fueled by last year's subpar performance. Catching 47 passes for 677 yards and four touchdowns while taking the top off the defense is nothing to scoff at. Still, it wasn’t up to his lofty standards, which motivates him on a daily basis.
“There were plays I didn’t make that I regret. I left those out there, so this year, I’m focusing on being on top of all those plays. I still think of them. I have more to do. I feel good with how I’m doing. I feel like I’m back to my old self. The speed and strength are there. Now I’m just going up and getting the ball.”