Carolina Panthers

Receiver Devin Funchess more trusting in second season, promises unselfish attitude

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess catches a pass during training camp last Thursday in Spartanburg.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess catches a pass during training camp last Thursday in Spartanburg. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Panthers quarterbackCam Newton wasn’t getting through to receiverDevin Funchess at this point last year, so the two of them took a ride to a McDonald’s in Spartanburg.

Funchess, a second-round pick from Michigan, has long had trouble with trusting people since growing up near Detroit. He said he doesn’t just give away his trust; you must earn it.

Newton told Funchess to lighten up, that he wasn’t trying to be his enemy and that the rookie should trust him.

They pulled up to the drive-thru and Newton ordered a parfait and Funchess got two apple pies before returning to Wofford College to make curfew.

“That’s what happened,” Funchess said Monday, “and after that I just went with what he said.”

That’s worked out for everyone.

Funchess is enjoying an outstanding training camp in his second season. His momentum from the end of last season—when he had 31 catches for 473 yards and five touchdowns—has carried into this summer.

“I’m more comfortable. I just want to do more,” Funchess said. “I want to be a bigger part and help the other guys - make sure we’re all making plays and make sure we get the W at the end of the day.”

Funchess had a couple of mental lapses on Monday that led to him throwing his helmet down after one red-zone drill. He wasn’t as sharp as he could have been on a route that would have presented a bigger target to Newton, and the pass went incomplete.

Funchess said it wasn’t frustration as much as it was knowing that he can be better and more disciplined.

“He’s becoming such a good young pro and understanding what it takes to be successful,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after practice. “And when he’s not doing things right he really gets on himself, so I’m glad to see that maturation that he’s going through.”

Funchess played tight end and receiver at Michigan. It was made clear when the Panthers drafted the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Funchess that he would play receiver in the NFL.

With Kelvin Benjamin out last season with a knee injury, Funchess took a lot of Benjamin’s No. 1 receiver routes. Now that Benjamin is back, Funchess is playing several roles, including slot receiver.

He and Newton are working on timing on the variety of routes he runs from different receiver positions.

Even with Benjamin back, Rivera doesn’t anticipate Newton force-feeding Benjamin this season. The plan for one of the most diverse offenses in the league is to target anywhere between seven and 10 receivers a game.

But Funchess said he understands there’s but one ball to go around.

“Man I know it,” he said. “You get antsy. You’ve got to stay disciplined. You never know when its coming. Stay disciplined, don’t get bored with the process and keep it moving.”

Fellow receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and Funchess talked Sunday about being unselfish if this offense is to succeed like last season .

“I’m gonna get mine, but I’d rather get the W at the end of the day than worry about how many balls I caught in the game,” Funchess said. “I’m playing for my teammates. Whether I have to clear (the DBs) out and take two of them with me like I was doing today, I’m unselfish.”

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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