"I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time. And once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit," Darnold said, according to Panthers reporter Darin Gantt.
The Jets traded Darnold to Carolina last week after landing the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Darnold struggled with New York after it drafted him third overall in 2018, posting a 13-25 record as a starter while throwing for 45 touchdowns to 39 interceptions. The trade signaled that the Jets are prepared to select a quarterback at No. 2, with BYU's Zach Wilson emerging as the leading candidate.
"To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge," Darnold said. "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."
Darnold, 23, is expected to start for the Panthers after they reportedly granted 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater permission to seek a trade. Darnold joins a Carolina offense that features Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and former Jets teammate Robby Anderson.
"There's a little bit of both - relief and excitement," Darnold said. "There's been so much uncertainty this offseason, not knowing what your future was going to look like, that was hard.
"But now that I'm in Charlotte, I'm excited, and yeah, I guess I am kind of relieved to be here."
The Panthers have recorded three straight losing seasons and will enter the 2021 campaign seeking their first playoff berth since 2017.