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Sports

Captain picks off doubters
Munnerlyn plays beyond expectations
 
Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 1:13 pm
by Herbert L. White

Captain Munnerlyn admits to carrying a chip on his shoulder.

The Carolina Panthers cornerback said he’s motivated by doubts whether he can be a consistent contributor as a professional. After five NFL seasons, Munnerlyn is still around – and contributing. In Sunday’s 30-20 win against the New York Jets, he returned an interception for a touchdown and racked up half of Carolina’s four sacks.

“They say I can’t be an every-down corner,” Munnerlyn said. “I go out and play every down now. I play in the slot when the coach asks me to. I just go out and do what I do, just try to prove that God is right about everything.”

Munnerlyn, whose seven career interceptions include a team-record five returns for scores, isn’t shy about his eagerness for big plays. When asked his preference of an interception or sack, Munnerlyn’s response was quick.

“I want the ball,” he said. “If it was a sack-fumble, that would be different. I want the ball to give back to our offense so they can score.”

Munnerlyn got some extra motivation last week when Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes called Carolina’s secondary a “weak link.” The Panthers’ responded by holding Holmes to a pair of catches for 17 yards and limiting rookie quarterback Geno Smith to 167 yards passing.

“Our defensive line took it personal, our linebackers took it personal, even the offensive players took it personal,” Munnerlyn said. “If you say one thing about one position, we feel like we’re a unit and you offend all of us.”

Chances are New Orleans, this week’s opponent, won’t make such pronouncements ahead of Sunday’s showdown for first place in the NFC South. A Carolina win  clinches a playoff berth. The Saints wrap up the title with a win.

“I’m excited about it,” Munnerlyn said. “We’ve got to go out there because they don’t play well on the road and our fans need to come out here and support us again and we need to get this win, man. It’s mandatory.”

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