Captain Munnerlyn has spent enough time standing around on the sidelines this summer to raise the eyebrows of Vikings beat reporters. The veteran cornerback’s situation became even more curious Sunday night when he didn’t play a single snap against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game.
As expected, it was Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman who started at cornerback in the base defense. But when the Vikings needed their top nickel package on the only third-down play the starting group faced, it was first-round pick Trae Waynes who got the nod, not Munnerlyn.
The starters were pulled after the first drive, but Munnerlyn didn’t play.
So yesterday morning, Zimmer was asked why Munnerlyn only watched.
“That’s a good question,” Zimmer said. “We planned on him playing the 42 and Newman playing the nickel on third down and we didn’t get any in that series. Then I pulled the rest of the guys out.”
But, as noted above, the Vikings did use the nickel once on that first drive.
So I tracked down Munnerlyn as he came off the field Tuesday afternoon and asked him if he was given an explanation of why he didn’t play.
“You’ve got to ask Coach Zim,” Munnerlyn said.
Munnerlyn was told that Zimmer had explained that the plan was for him to play in the first-team nickel package, but that it didn’t work out that way.
“You’ve got to ask Coach, man. I don’t know,” he said.
Maybe Munnerlyn was told to defer to his head coach, but it was odd to hear Munnerlyn, one of the best talkers on the team, be so tight-lipped.
It also has been odd seeing Munnerlyn’s practice reps get significantly reduced, especially since he insists he feels fine right now after missing most of the spring workouts with a foot injury. “I’m good,” he says.
Zimmer made it clear at the combine that the Vikings see Munnerlyn as a slot guy, which is why they signed Newman and drafted Waynes. But with him getting so little work, it’s fair to wonder where he fits in their plans.
The Vikings signed Munnerlyn to a three-year, $14.25 million contract last offseason. He started all 16 games in 2014, but he had trouble adjusting to Zimmer’s scheme after a successful stint with the Panthers.
If the Vikings do decide to move on from Munnerlyn before the start of the regular season, they can save $3 million in cap space by cutting him.
Still, a team can never have too much depth at cornerback. Just ask the Eagles, who traded Brandon Boykin to the Steelers last week only to see his replacement in the slot, JaCorey Shepherd, go down with a torn ACL.
And the Vikings are already starting the season without suspended corner Jabari Price and the injured Josh Robinson is likely staying on the PUP.
Regardless, this Munnerlyn situation seems a little suspicious.
But if Munnerlyn is worried his job is jeopardy, he isn’t showing it.
“I’m feeling comfortable this year, but at the same time, I don’t feel any pressure when it comes to a roster spot,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ll try to come out here and make plays. That’s all I can do.”