Friday, October 16, 2009

Props to our big Homie "Cap" of the panters

When Captain Munnerlyn gets moving, he surges upfield as though propelled by slingshot. His strides are as rapid as they are long, yet each comes purposefully, befitting the chip on his shoulder that is roughly the size of the Atlantic Ocean. The chip grew to such proportions after he surprisingly slipped to the seventh round of this year's NFL Draft.

"I'm kind of glad I went in the seventh round, because it did push me more," he said. "I'm hungry. I want it. I want to play football. I love the game. I feel like it was in God's plan for me to go in the seventh round. Now I have a chip on my shoulder."

And like the sea level itself, said chip continues to expand, as the perfectionist rookie cornerback gets upset with himself even when he's beaten in practice.

"We have to tell him sometimes, 'Let that play go,' because he gets mad," said cornerback Richard Marshall. "It's good to have that mindset of (not wanting) to get beat, but it's going to happen, and when it does, you've just got to forget about it."

But you'd always rather have the player who puts too much emotion and energy into otherwise mundane moments than the opposite. That's what the Panthers have in Munnerlyn, whose persistence and fire matched that of wide receiver Steve Smith, with whom Munnerlyn dueled in training-camp practices this summer.

Like Smith, Munnerlyn is shorter than the average player at his position. Like Smith, he compensates with tenacity.

"When it comes to football, I'm smaller than everybody," Munnerlyn said, "so I've got to have that big drive."

But that alone wouldn't have been enough to thrust him into the prominent role he earned for Week 1 -- nickel back on defense, punt returner and gunner on punt coverage. He had to improve -- which Marshall says he did.

"Once we got to training camp, you could tell that (Munnerlyn) went back and worked on the technique we were doing," Marshall said. "It got to him and he started playing with good technique. The coaches saw that, and they liked what they saw and put him out there."

Munnerlyn said the coaches told him a few days before the regular-season opener that he would be working as the nickel against the Eagles.

"I couldn't sleep the night before," he said. "First NFL game and I end up playing (approximately) 45 plays on defense. Being a rookie, I felt like that was great."

But his learning continues, even though training camp is over. Munnerlyn's primary lessons came as the gunner, which included a frustrating moment where he overpursued and was blocked behind DeSean Jackson, allowing the Eagles returner to burst upfield en route to a 75-yard touchdown.

"It's a learning process for me. I played gunner in college, but we never got (blocked) with two guys on you. It's kind of difficult getting off two guys," he said. "You've got to get used to it. But I'm getting better each day."

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