Panthers respect Favre, one idolizes Vikings' QB
Carolina Panthers rookie cornerback Captain Munnerlyn can barely contain his enthusiasm this week.
It's not often NFL players get a chance to play against their childhood hero.
Munnerlyn was only 3 years old when Brett Favre was drafted into the NFL by the Atlanta Falcons, but Munnerlyn has been a fan ever since he can remember and can tell you all about Green Bay's glory days. He wore a Favre's green and gold No. 4 jersey until the number began to fade off from being washed so many times and kept his Packers Starter jacket handy for colder days growing up in Mobile, Ala.
``You want to know the truth, that's my favorite player,'' Munnerlyn said, the excitement growing in his voice. ``Growing up, he always was. My friends have been calling me. They marked this game on the calendar. Oh man, I love Brett Favre. Like for real, seriously.''
On Sunday night, Munnerlyn will get a chance to play against Favre - and possibly even start - when the Panthers host the Minnesota Vikings on national television.
With starting cornerback Richard Marshall missing his second straight day of practice on Thursday with an ankle injury, Munnerlyn, the team's impressive young nickel back, could get tossed into the starting lineup.
``I hope I don't get star-struck when he's under center. I don't want to be out there playing and be like, 'Man, this is Brett Favre!' and he's like, 'Hike!''' Munnerlyn said with a laugh.
So what if Munnerlyn is fortunate enough to pick Favre?
``I'll probably ask him to sign the ball,'' Munnerlyn said. ``For real. I don't know if that would be a good idea. I'll probably send it to (South Carolina college teammates and current Vikings) Sidney Rice or Jasper Brinkley and be like, 'Hey, tell Brett Favre to sign this ball.' I don't know. It's going to be crazy out there playing against my favorite player.''
Favre, who has twice retired from the game, is having an MVP-type season at age 40, defying those critics who called him ridiculous and selfish for returning this season.
Not only are the Vikings 11-2 and on the verge of clinching the NFC North division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs, but he has the second-highest quarterback rating (106) in the league behind only New Orleans' Drew Brees. Favre has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 3,341 yards with 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
``He's been a great player from the time he got his first opportunity to start,'' coach John Fox said. ``With experience and time you understand the game so much better; you play the game even faster. Maybe you are a little bit more sore on Monday than you were 15 years earlier. You'd have to ask him that. But at the end of the day he's operating as well as I've ever seen him operate as far as where to go with the ball, when he does go, being on target. I think he's having a remarkable year.''
Watching him on film, Munnerlyn has been impressed.
``He throws the ball so hard,'' Munnerlyn said. ``It could be a swing route or a curl. He's putting it there. You better be practicing on that jugs machine, if you think you're going to catch an interception, or he'll break your fingers. He steps into all his throws. He's making good reads. He's a Hall of Fame player.''
Added Marshall: ``All his throws, he's like right on the money, still. He hasn't skipped a beat or missed any steps because he got older. He's still throwing the ball good. He's got a lot of speed on the ball and you've got to be on your coverage if you want to get there.''
Munnerlyn, 21, shook his head in disbelief thinking about how long Favre has been in the league.
When asked how Favre became his favorite, Munnerlyn said, ``because of his love for the game. He has the passion for it, and just didn't want to give up. One day I want to be like that.''
NOTES: Along with Marshall, Jake Delhomme missed his second straight day of practice, almost ensuring that Matt Moore will get his third straight start on Sunday night. Running back Tyrell Sutton was added the injury report after sitting out with a thigh injury.
Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (knee) and running back Jonathan Stewart returned to work Thursday and practiced full.