Dave Canales takes hilarious Diontae Johnson anecdote in his stride

The head coach took it in good humor.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

This is a serious time around the NFL. Teams are finalizing their plans and nervously awaiting the draft officially getting underway. Jobs will be on the line in some cases. For others such as the Carolina Panthers, it's a chance to continue relaying the foundations for a more successful future.

There was some light relief from Carolina's standpoint this week as the team congregated in Charlotte for the start of voluntary workouts. Diontae Johnson was one of the star attractions in front of the media on Tuesday, where he revealed that he was unaware Dave Canales was the head coach despite talking to him at length during a special dinner following his trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dave Canales took Diontae Johnson's comical story in good humor

It was funny to think about Johnson sitting at the dinner table answering questions from the inquisitive Canales without knowing what position he held. When asked about the revelation during his press availability on Wednesday, the head coach took it in his stride, cheekily claiming the wideout's representatives should have done more to prevent this awkward scenario from coming to fruition.

“I did not know, but we were having such a good time. Steak 48, I mean, some fantastic food. He’s probably looking at this guy, he’s young. I’m asking a lot of questions, talking a lot about how we’re going to use him in the offense. So he’s probably thinking this is the offensive coordinator.

"I think his agent could have helped him a little bit, maybe send him a snapshot or something on his phone, like by the way, this is Coach Canales. I did not know that until yesterday when he said it. Pretty funny in hindsight, but that’s not the only time that’s happened.”

Every good relationship needs an icebreaker. This was probably joked about on the practice field by coaches and teammates alike. Weirdly, it might have relaxed those involved and helped form a close bond rather than Canales holding any unnecessary animosity.

Johnson knows who Canales is now. He also knows that his role will be an important one next season.

The former third-round pick out of Toledo is one of the slickest route-runners around. Johnson knows how to manipulate opposing cornerbacks consistently through sharp cuts at the top of his stems with an exceptional ability to change direction on a dime. Aside from aging veteran Adam Thielen, the Panthers had nobody to fit this mold in 2023.

Bryce Young needs more playmakers. The protection should improve exponentially after those in power made significant investments in their offensive line interior. Johnson will help, but the Panthers should also acquire one or two potential difference-makers via the 2024 NFL Draft.

Johnson is experienced enough to decipher what's required. He also needs to maximize this second opportunity after things ended on a bitter note with the Steelers, who shipped him off for nothing more than veteran cornerback Donte Jackson and a late-round pick swap. That had to hurt the ego and the pass-catcher admitted a level of surprise to being cast aside, so the motivation to put things right in a contract year couldn't be more obvious.

And who knows, a relationship between Canales and Johnson that began with comical confusion could end up being something truly special.