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Captain's Comeback: Munnerlyn Hoping for Vikings Win Against Former Team

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Prior to last weekend's games, Captain Munnerlyn sent a text message to his friend and former teammate, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.

"I texted him and was like, 'Hey. Make sure you all beat San Fran, because you don't want to start the season off 0-3,' " Munnerlyn said, laughing.

Carolina did defeat San Francisco 46-27, making the Panthers 1-1 as they prepare to host the Vikings on Sunday. It will be Munnerlyn's first time playing back at Bank of America Stadium since he signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2014.

Munnerlyn stays in Charlotte during the offseason, and he said he's excited to play against the team that drafted him gave him the first five years of his career.

"It's going to be a little different feeling for me to be on the visitors' side," Munnerlyn said in a media session. "It's going to be a little emotional, but I'm excited."

He's especially close to Davis, who took Munnerlyn under his wing when the cornerback was drafted. Munnerlyn views him not only as a friend but as an older brother, and Davis stood up as a groomsmen in Munnerlyn's wedding this summer.

Davis, a 12-year veteran, garnered extra attention for playing in Super Bowl 50 shortly after undergoing surgery for a broken arm, always checked in on Munnerlyn and mentored him.

"Our relationship just grew," Munnerlyn said. "TD, I've just been looking up to him since I got to the NFL, and he's been a role model.

As much as he's looking forward to reuniting with former teammates, Munnerlyn said all bets are off when the clock hits noon.

"I know I'm going to laugh and joke with those guys, but when the whistle blows, it's all go for me," he said. "It's all go – I'm ready to play football, ready to compete and try to help my team get this win."

There are a few offensive Panthers players Munnerlyn is especially eager to go up against, including quarterback Cam Newton. The two played together in Carolina from 2011-2013. Munnerlyn said Newton is one of the most competitive athletes he's ever encountered, and it always provided fun practice battles.

"He doesn't like to lose at anything," Munnerlyn said. "If you try to tie your shoe faster than him, he's going to beat you in that."

In Newton's last meeting with Minnesota in 2014, he threw for 194 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He added 49 rushing yards. Munnerlyn said Newton's ability to both throw the ball and cover ground as a runner makes him a threat and tricky to defend.

Tackling Newton must be done correctly.

"He's a big guy, and he loves contact," Munnerlyn said of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback. "You definitely have to wrap him up because he's so big and strong. He's a guy that can get after it. He's one of the best in the league."

The 5-foot-9 Munnerlyn said he expects to be a target Sunday.

"I think [Cam's] going to try to run me over," Munnerlyn told Paul Allen in a taping of Vikings GamePlan that will air Sunday. "We had a conversation when I was there – when he sees small DBs, he tries to punish them. That's what he told me.

"I definitely think he's going to try to run me over, but I'm going to let him know, 'I'm not going nowhere,' " Munnerlyn added.


Two-plus years removed from his time in Carolina, Munnerlyn still holds the Panthers record for interception return touchdowns with five. He and the rest of the Vikings defense is focused on creating more turnovers in 2016, and to get a pick-six against his old team would be something special.

Munnerlyn said if he's able to snag an interception, he'll have another text to send.

"I'm definitely going to let him know about it," Munnerlyn said. "I'm sure I'm going to shoot him a text and say, 'I appreciate you for this gift,' because he's so competitive."

It takes one to know one. Munnerlyn's own competitive juices are flowing as he turns his focus to the upcoming game, and he said he's chomping at the bit even more after watching the Panthers' journey to Super Bowl 50.

Munnerlyn traveled back to his home in Charlotte after the Vikings lost in the Wild Card playoff game. There, he continued to watch his former teammates go on to win the NFC North Championship before falling short to Denver in the big dance.

Although he was happy for his friends and celebrated with them, the festivities gave Munnerlyn a small taste of the experience that made him hungry for more.

"I said, 'Man, I want that feeling.' It made me work even harder in the offseason to get that feeling this year to my teammates in Minnesota," Munnerlyn said. "I want to be the best I can be for my team, to help them take it to the next level, to help us make that Super Bowl run like those guys did."

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