The challenge was issued and accepted and, at least according to Travis Benjamin, then went strangely silent.
“I will accept it, man,” Benjamin said Tuesday after the Chargers concluded their latest offseason workout. “When I wrote them, they didn’t write me back. So I knew what that was.”
Ginn, 34, plays for New Orleans and is entering his 13th season. He ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash before the 2007 draft.
Benjamin, 29, is entering his eighth season and fourth with the Chargers. His 40 time during the 2012 combine was 4.36.
“I won’t back down from a challenge, not one bit,” Benjamin said. “I’m a competitive person. You want to get on the field and race, we can race.”
The Chargers need Benjamin to be more than just fast in 2019. Coming off a season in which he struggled to stay healthy, Benjamin is the No. 1 option to help replace Tyrell Williams.
A free agent, Williams signed in March with Oakland, a four-year deal worth up to $47 million, a figure that was beyond the Chargers’ budget given their limited cap space.
Williams led the team last season with an average of 15.9 yards per catch and had the Chargers’ longest play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown reception against Tennessee.
To illustrate how dramatically Williams rose to become a big-play receiver, that score against the Titans came on the Chargers’ first snap and ignited London’s Wembley Stadium.
A week earlier, he had two touchdown catches — from 45 and 29 yards — in the span of six minutes in a victory at Cleveland.
That’s the sort of explosiveness the Chargers will be trying to find elsewhere when training camp opens in July.
“Should change for the better,” Benjamin said when asked how his role would be different this season. “More plays, more opportunities to showcase my skill set and get on the field and ball out.”
Benjamin caught 68 passes for 966 yards — both career-highs — for the Browns in 2015. He signed with the Chargers as a free agent the next spring.
He has been unable to match that production the last three years and is coming off a season that was repeatedly interrupted by a foot injury. For a player who relies on speed, a bad foot is about as significant as ailments come.
After the initial injury knocked him out for two games in September, Benjamin tried to come back but aggravated the problem early in Week 4 against San Francisco.
“He tried to work through it, and it didn’t quite work out,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “But we didn’t need him, to be honest with you. We had depth last year at that position.
“But his big-play potential, it’s been big for us. He’s going to be on the field more this year. Hopefully, we’ll see more of those big plays. His speed is rare. We’re glad to have him on our roster.”
Despite a mostly quiet 2018, Benjamin did provide the Chargers with a few notable, game-preserving moments.
On a chilly December Sunday night in Pittsburgh, he scored the team’s first touchdown on a 46-yard reception from Philip Rivers. The Chargers had fallen behind 13-0 but eventually won 33-30 on the final play of the game.
Eleven days later, on an even chillier Thursday night in Kansas City, Benjamin caught two passes on the Chargers’ final, game-winning drive in a 29-28 victory. The latter converted a fourth down.
“I felt good,” Benjamin recalled. “I felt confident in myself knowing that my role in the offense had diminished a little. When I got my number called and Phil looked toward me to make a play, I made those plays for the team.”
A re-emergence by the speedy Benjamin this season would fill out a receiving group headed by back-to-back Pro Bowler Keenan Allen and big target Mike Williams.
Tight end Hunter Henry also will be back after missing most of 2018 because of a knee injury and should give Rivers an appetizing option on third down and in the red zone.
“I’m just looking forward to this year, more opportunities to play,” Benjamin said. “Hopefully, by the end of the season, we have good things to talk about.”
Although Ginn apparently hadn’t yet responded to Benjamin, it is worth remembering that the Chargers and Saints are scheduled to hold joint practices in Costa Mesa in August.