By Scott Fowler
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Captain Munnerlyn came back to Wofford College on Tuesday. Not in the way he wanted. Not in the uniform he wanted. Not on the field when he wanted.
Munnerlyn, who for seven years was a Carolina Panther, suited up this time for the Buffalo Bills. He wore No. 26 instead of the No. 41 he has always preferred. But a few things remained the same, like when he and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton engaged in their usual verbal jousting.
“I got one question,” Newton said before the joint Bills-Panthers practice started. “Why’d you get 26? You think that’s cute on you?”
Munnerlyn countered by saying that Newton better watch out on the corner blitz, because if he got there, he was going to hit the quarterback — despite the coaches’ rules for the combined practice.That was about as spicy as it got, though. Despite Munnerlyn trying to talk his way onto the Bills’ starting defense to get a crack at Newton, his coaches kept him on the sideline when the Bills faced the Panthers’ quarterback in team drills (where quarterbacks couldn’t be tackled).
Munnerlyn did practice, but only with the reserves. He could only watch when Newton went deep on a soaring 50-yard pass to Curtis Samuel that drew the biggest cheers of the morning from Panthers fans.
“The fans went crazy when he hit Curtis with the deep ball,” Munnerlyn said later of Newton. “But he was sacked 3-4 times (by Bills players who touched Newton before the throw). So it didn’t count.”
Munnerlyn, 31, obviously is still feeling his way forward with his new team. The Bills — coached by former Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Employing so many former Panthers, they’re sometimes called “Carolina North” — signed Munnerlyn on Saturday. He had been out of the NFL for nearly six months, since the Panthers released him in February.