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Benjamin: I want to show I'm not a quitter


The last several weeks for Kelvin Benjamin have not been easy. The torn meniscus in his knee will need to be addressed with a surgical procedure after the season is over. He said he's been told he can't do any more damage, but that's not something he's thinking about each time he's taken the field for the team that traded for him right before Halloween.

"I know they brought me in to play a role on the team," Benjamin said after Friday's practice. "I'm just trying to do that and fulfill my role and be a great teammate. Just getting more comfortable with the organization and have the organization get more comfortable with me. Just let them know that I'm not a quitter. I'm going to fight. I'm going to push."

One person he hasn't had to convince is his head coach. Sean McDermott has been around Benjamin since the Carolina Panthers made him a first-round draft choice in 2014.

"Kelvin continues to work through his knee. He's a tough dude," McDermott said. "He's toughed it out. He's mentally as well as physically tough. He continues to work through that."

Benjamin, who is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Patriots, knows what's at stake over these last two regular season games. He's come to learn the history of the Bills absence from the postseason. That's why he plans to play on Sunday.

"It's really not that tough. Most football players will tell you they'll push through a lot of injuries," he said. "I'm really trying to do it for my team and for myself. We're right there being so close. I just want to contribute to that."

And there's a good reason why.

Back in 2015, Benjamin's season was over before it began. He tore his ACL before the season started. Then he had to watch his Carolina team make a run all the way to the Super Bowl as NFC Champions.

"That was super tough," Benjamin admitted. "You want to cheer for the guys, but at the same time you're mad because you're not contributing. You're not helping. It sucks."

"The way he hung with the team going back a few years when we were in the Super Bowl I thought was pretty fascinating to watch," said McDermott, who was the Panthers defensive coordinator at the time. "He was as big a part of it as anyone even though he wasn't out there on the field. I've seen that drive him every week since that time really. Just me personally watching him and his development and maturity on and off the field."

As committed as he was to being a cheerleader for his Panthers teammates then, he'd much rather be an on-field contributor for Buffalo's playoff run now.

"Definitely. Whatever I can do to help I'm going to do it," he said. "I'm trying to push and I'm ready to play."

Benjamin should go into Sunday's game confident. Even though he missed Buffalo's Week 13 matchup with New England at New Era Field, he played against the Patriots when Carolina upset them in Week 4 at Gillette Stadium (33-30).

Buffalo's big receiver had four catches for 104 yards, making a pair of plays to convert third downs that went 43 and 39 yards. Both of those plays put the Panthers in scoring territory where both drives were finished with touchdowns.

That's why he's expecting to draw some attention on Sunday.

"I know what to expect. They'll probably play man across the board," he said. "When we're in the red zone they'll probably bring that safety closer to my side. So my fellow receivers just have to play big this week.

"It's still the Patriots and the game still has to be played. You have to go out there and play ball."

McDermott has made it a point in year one to add players to his roster, who will compete no matter the score or the time left on the clock. Players who will push through adversity, or in Benjamin's case injury, for the sake of the team.

"The type of competitor he is that goes almost without saying because of how he's wired to be the best at what he does and how confident he is in himself and his abilities," McDermott said of Benjamin.

Under contract through the 2018 season, Benjamin grasped the offensive playbook quickly, even though it's his first time in an offense with west coast principles.

He has also taken a quick liking to Buffalo. The small-town college type atmosphere of home games appeals to him.

"I like it. I like the locker room. The people in the building are tremendous. They treat you like you own the team or something," he said chuckling. "It's like home. I love it. The fans... everybody is great."

And the longer Benjamin battles and makes plays, the more Buffalo's faithful will come to appreciate what he has to offer.

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