Ted Ginn Jr. has never been the player he was projected to be when he showed flashes of breakaway speed as a deep receiving threat and kick returner for Ohio State.

He lasted three years with the Miami Dolphins, who drafted him ninth overall in 2007.

The past three seasons in San Francisco he was used almost exclusively as a returner, a role that was reduced each year.

But as someone who once ran a 4.28 second 40-yard dash, Ginn still holds the promise of outracing defenders and making things happen whenever he touches the football.

Now, Ginn has a chance to resurrect his career in Carolina, where there is stability at quarterback and a coaching staff willing to give him opportunities.

“You want to put the ball in the hands of your playmakers, and that’s what we’re focusing on and talking about in terms of offensively,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “What can we do to get enough touches for the guys who can make plays?

“You hear things from the outside about players. But then when you see him for yourself, and you sit there and you go, ‘Wow.’ Watching Ted’s speed, his quickness, his route-running – and he’s catching everything right now. So we’re real excited about that, and his potential as far as a return man”

Ginn could enter training camp as the No. 1 returner on the depth chart and will also compete for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, bringing speed and experience to a Panthers receiving group that could use more of both.

‘Go tackle him’

Ginn, signed by the Panthers as a free agent in March to a one-year deal, is a man who wants to win.

Now 28, he’s driven by having been in both the Super Bowl and college national championship – and played for teams that lost them both.

In Super Bowl XLVII in February, the game ended with the ball in Ginn’s hands.

He was back deep to return a free kick following a Baltimore safety with his 49ers down 34-31 with four seconds remaining. NFL Films later caught Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco telling his teammates on the sideline to tackle Ginn in case he started making his way to the end zone.

“Hey! If he breaks this ... if he busts it for some reason? Tackle him! Go tackle him,” Flacco said.

Flacco later blamed it on nerves, and said he wasn’t serious. An ineligible player tackling Ginn could have resulted in officials awarding the 49ers a touchdown.

“That’s a man who wants to win,” Ginn said of Flacco.

Ginn didn’t break it, instead going 31 yards to midfield before being tackled by an eligible defender and thus ending the Super Bowl.

At Ohio State, Ginn returned the opening kickoff of the 2007 BCS National Championship for a touchdown but was injured during the celebration. He didn’t return to the game, and the Buckeyes fell to Florida 41-14.

“You’re never really over it,” he said. “You always think about it, like you made it to the Big Dance but you lost. That’s just like the national championship, it’s always going to be a marking in your book.