Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn launched his own type of protest this week – a vocal one criticizing his limited playing time in the Week 3 loss to New Orleans.
Munnerlyn played a season-low 11 defensive snaps in the 34-13 defeat, and spent part of this week letting coaches and reporters know he was none too pleased about it.
“I didn’t come here for that. And I told them that,” Munnerlyn said Wednesday. “I expressed my feelings. I want to play. That’s what I’m here for.”
Munnerlyn returned to Carolina during the offseason, on a four-year, $17.5 million contract. The Panthers signed him to add stability at nickel back, which had been a bit of a revolving door since he left for Minnesota in 2014.
Munnerlyn played an average of 31 snaps in victories over San Francisco and Buffalo. But he was squeezed out against the Saints when the Panthers went with linebacker Shaq Thompson in their “big nickel” package to slow the New Orleans ground game.
It wasn’t terribly effective. The Panthers gave up 149 rushing yards to the Saints, who had run for only 141 combined yards in their first two games.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said personnel groupings cut into Munnerlyn’s playing time last week. But he said Munnerlyn also gave up a couple of plays during his limited action.
“When he gets his opportunity, he’s got to be ready to play. We talked about that,” Rivera said. “But we are most certainly going to look at opportunities to get him on the football field because he is part of what we want to do.”
Munnerlyn told Rivera and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks he never got into a rhythm.
“I also had to let them know a football game’s about rhythm. If I’m on the sideline and play three snaps in the first half, then only going in on third-down, crucial situations and I’m not on the field, man, I’m cold,” he said. “I never got a feel for the game.”
With cornerback Daryl Worley nursing a shoulder injury, Munnerlyn could see snaps at outside corner this week at New England. Rivera said Munnerlyn’s an option, but also mentioned recently acquired Kevon Seymour as a possibility if Worley can’t go.