New Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Saturday he had no intentions of apologizing to Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess, who Munnerlyn criticized after a game in 2016 by saying: “I don’t think he is that good.”
However, Munnerlyn said, he felt confident he could smooth things over with Funchess now that the two were teammates instead of rivals.
“I definitely am not apologizing for saying it,” Munnerlyn told me in a phone interview Saturday after he had signed a new four-year deal with Carolina. “That’s not me. And that’s how I felt. But now we’re teammates, and we’re competitors. And hopefully he is going to prove me wrong.”
Munnerlyn said he did plan to address his comments to Funchess soon and that then “we’ll talk about it and move on.”
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Munnerlyn played for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016 when he made the comments. After the Vikings beat Carolina 22-10 in Charlotte in September – scoring the final 22 points of the game – Munnerlyn told reporters that the Vikings had concentrated much of their coverage toward other Carolina receivers such as Kelvin Benjamin and “weren’t really worried” about Funchess.
“We just knew where Benjamin was the whole time,” Munnerlyn said then. “Funchess, we weren’t worried about him. It was Kelvin Benjamin. I’m just going to be honest. Me personally, I don’t think he is that good, No. 17 (Funchess). So we weren’t really worried about him.”
Munnerlyn also said after that same game to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News that the Panthers were not good at playing from behind and that he knew Minnesota would win once the Vikings got ahead.
“When we took the lead ... I know those guys. I knew it was over,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve been in that locker room before, so I knew. Those guys really don’t play well when they are down.”
Panthers players hotly disputed that front-running characterization the next week, but Munnerlyn told me he wasn’t going to apologize for that statement either. He said he felt confident that his “new-old” teammates already had let that statement fade away.
“That’s just what I felt at the time,” Munnerlyn told me in the phone interview, “and I’ve never been the type to bite my tongue. I’m a competitor, and I said what I felt. I’ve already talked to a lot of guys on this defense – Luke (Kuechly), Charles Johnson, TD (Thomas Davis) – and they were all wanting me back. I think we’re all fine on that. I’m a competitor, and that’s just what I believed then.”
Munnerlyn joked that several of his former – and now current teammates – “kind of swindled me” into not taking any of his other visits to NFL teams and instead signing with the same team he played with from 2009-13. He is expected to start at nickel cornerback, a position Munnerlyn said he believes the Panthers have placed a higher monetary value on since he has been gone.
Depending on the heat in Spartanburg and how personally Funchess took Munnerlyn’s original comments, I would think that a training-camp, on-field scrap between Munnerlyn and Funchess won’t be out of the question in 2017.
Munnerlyn said in an earlier group interview Saturday: “I want him to be a better football player. Now I’m on his team. ... I’m sure he’s going to want to prove me wrong.
“And at the same time I don’t mind that. If I can bring the best out of you, I’m down for that. I’m definitely going to compete with him. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of battles.”