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'Unwanted' QB Sam Darnold stung by trade, vies to improve with Panthers

Veteran quarterback Sam Darnold told reporters that he felt unwanted when he was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the New York Jets. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI
Veteran quarterback Sam Darnold told reporters that he felt "unwanted" when he was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the New York Jets. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI | License Photo

April 13 (UPI) -- Quarterback Sam Darnold said he was "stung" when he became "unwanted" and traded away by the New York Jets this off-season to the Carolina Panthers, but is now focused on self-improvement and learning a new offense.

Darnold spoke to reporters Monday for the first time as a member of the Panthers after being traded on April 5 in exchange for second-, fourth- and sixth-round draft picks.

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"To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge," Darnold told reporters. "Getting that news that you're going to be traded, of a team saying, 'Hey, we didn't want you," for whatever reason, is hard.

"But right now, I feel great about it, and I'm excited to get here, and get started."

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Darnold, 23, completed 59.6% of his throws for 2,208 yards, nine scores and 11 interceptions in 12 starts last season for the Jets. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft from USC completed a career-best 61.9% of his throws for 3,024 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 13 starts in 2019.

"Obviously, getting drafted as high as I did, my expectations were to go in there, play 20 years and win Super Bowls,'' Darnold said of his time with the Jets. "That was the dream, but obviously it didn't work out.

"Anytime you go somewhere and set lofty goals and those goals aren't met, that's tough. When I heard the news they wanted to trade me, that was tough. Anytime you're not wanted somewhere, that's always a tough pill to swallow.''

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Darnold also said the uncertainty of not knowing if he would be traded drove him "insane" earlier this off-season. The Jets are now expected to select a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Darnold said Monday he will battle Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job and is ready to help the team win "no matter what" his role is, but Carolina has given Bridgewater permission to seek a trade.

"I think we just have to let that play out and see where it stands," Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters Monday. "I think you guys all know how I feel about Teddy as a professional and a person. I think he can win as a quarterback in this league. I believe he can move the ball and do good things.

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"I believe whatever situation he walks into, he's going to walk into with a good attitude."

Rhule said he watched Darnold from afar before the trade and was awed by his quarterback skills.

"I think when you see his arm talent, I don't think there's a game you can watch that he doesn't make a play that makes you say, 'There it is,'" Rhule said. "He can fit the ball into tight windows. He can create with his feet. He moves around a ton. He creates plays with his legs, extends plays with his legs."

Darnold will reunite with former teammate Robby Anderson this season with the Panthers. Anderson and Darnold were Jets teammates in 2018 and 2019.

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