He’s heard it for 16 years — through his childhood, his prep career at Farmington Hills (Mich.) High and his collegiate career at Michigan.
Now a fourth-year pro, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess is done with people calling him “soft,” so when the moniker arose after Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants, he decided a public service announcement was in order.
He left the game with a cramp — an issue he’s dealt with in every game since he was 8 years old — during the Panthers’ game-winning drive and defended himself on Twitter the next day.
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“PSA for those who don’t know I cramp more than the average athlete! However, when I’m on the field you’re going to get 110% every trip out of me !” he wrote. “ENOUGH of all this I’m soft stuff. My teammates know how hard I work for them!”
It wasn’t necessarily one specific comment that led him to make his statement on the vitriolic forum of choice for some of the game’s most irrational fans. It wasn’t anger or frustration, either.
Funchess, 24, just decided the only logical explanation is that some people must not know any better.
“I was just addressing it. I wasn’t frustrated or nothing like that with nobody, I was just addressing it and letting them know that I just cramp,” he said. “People comment on it all the time but I’ve been dealing with grown adults since I was 8 years old commenting on how soft I am and how I always find an out in stressful times. But I cramp every game, I was just letting people know.
“Some people hate and some people don’t understand what being an athlete means. So I was just addressing it and letting everybody know.”
Pickle juice, mustard and bananas
Funchess said the outside criticism got bad in high school, although the complaints from parents and fans weren’t as frustrating as the cramps themselves.
It didn’t matter what home remedies they tried (both pickle juice, mustard and bananas), it didn’t matter how hot or cold the weather was or how much he stretched and hydrated — Funchess’ cramps seemed inevitable, so he learned to essentially hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
“I’ve been frustrated since I was eight years old with cramps,” Funchess said. “Doctors and everybody else are still trying to figure it out. It’s been a long process trying to figure it out. Hopefully, they can figure it out, if not I know how to play with it and how to deal with it.”
Funchess enters Sunday’s game at Washington ranked 72nd in the NFL with 18 receptions and 60th with 238 receiving yards. He leads the Panthers in receiving yards but only Arizona, Chicago, Buffalo, Washington and Dallas feature leading receivers with fewer yards than Funchess.
Statistically on track
Statistically, however, he might be on track for his best season to date. His average number of targets per game (seven), receptions per game (4.5) and yards per game (59.5) are all career-highs, and he’s reeling in a higher percentage of his targets in 2018 (64.3 percent) than any of his previous three seasons.
“Funchess is playing good. You base it off opportunities you get, and he’s making the most of his opportunities,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We’re a group that’s growing, I think he’s played really well, particularly the last couple weeks.”
Washington boasts the league’s seventh-best pass defense and offers a familiar challenge for the Panthers and Funchess, who played with cornerback Josh Norman in Carolina in 2015, trained with cornerback Quincy Dunbar in Florida and played against safety D.J. Swearinger in 2015 and 2016.
Based on his injury history, it’s possible Funchess cramps during Sunday’s game. If he’s on the field, it means he can play through it. If he’s not, it’s because he can’t — just so you know.
It’s not like the outside critiques still matter to him.
“I said what I said on Twitter,” he said. “After that, if you want to continue to talk, that’s cool.”