Panthers diminutive CB Munnerlyn making big plays

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm •  Published: December 18, 2013
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he has a case of "little man's syndrome."

The 5-foot-8, 195-pound cornerback isn't apologizing though, saying that's what has helped make him the player he is today.

The former seventh-round draft pick has beaten the odds to become a fixture in the Carolina secondary, developing a knack for the big play along the way.

Munnerlyn has two interceptions this season, returning both for touchdowns.

That's not all that unusual for the five-year pro — he returned two others for touchdowns last season.

Of Munnerlyn's seven career interceptions, the former punt returner has taken five back for TDs — the highest percentage in NFL history among players with at least five INTs.

"I still don't feel like I've made it and that is what makes me who I am," Munnerlyn said. "I feel like I have to keep going out there and playing with that chip on my shoulder. Being an undersized guy I feel like I always have to do the extra things."

The Panthers hope Munnerlyn can do the extra things needed Sunday when they host the New Orleans Saints in a game that could decide the NFC South division championship, as well as who gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

He and his fellow defensive backs struggled in the last meeting with the Saints two weeks ago, allowing Drew Brees to throw for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-13 loss at the Superdome, prompting Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes to call the secondary the "weakest link" of Carolina's defense.

Munnerlyn responded with a huge game against New York.

He had two sacks along with a 42-yard interception return for a score. Holmes was held to 17 yards receiving on two catches.

"Maybe because somebody made a comment about the secondary or just because he felt he needed to step up... but for whatever reason the switch has been flipped with him," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "And I hope it stays flipped."

Rivera said Munnerlyn is the defensive version of Steve Smith, Carolina's stellar undersized 5-foot-9 wide receiver.

"I think it's his tenacity," Rivera said. "He's not the biggest in terms of physical stature, but it's his attitude and how hard he plays. His desire."

Brees sees it too.

He's faced Munnerlyn for the past four seasons and has grown to respect his game.



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