Thursday's NFL: Former Michigan receiver Devin Funchess ready for comeback with Packers

Associated Press

Green Bay, Wis. — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess hasn’t played a game in nearly two full seasons but remains confident he can make a successful comeback.

“I’ll never doubt myself,” Funchess said this week during the Packers' mandatory minicamp. “The moment you start doubting yourself, you lose. I like to win. I don’t like to lose. So I guarantee I’ll keep a smile on my face and we’re going to be dancing a lot.”

Funchess signed with the Packers in spring 2020 but still hasn’t played for them. He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since fracturing his collarbone while playing for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 season opener.

Green Bay Packers' Devin Funchess watches a drill during an NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

He opted out of the 2020 season to help his family through the pandemic. In his Instagram post announcing that decision, Funchess said some of his closest relatives “have experienced the life-threatening impact of COVID-19."

“Family over everything,” Funchess said this week. “My family was going through some things. I felt it was best for me to be there for my family.”

That long time away from football made Funchess particularly excited about working out with his new teammates. He wants to show he still has the skills that made him an effective red-zone threat for the Carolina Panthers earlier in his career.

“I was eager, anxious this last week just to get back around big, grown men and the team, the camaraderie, just the atmosphere,” Funchess said.

Funchess had 21 touchdown catches with Carolina through his first four NFL seasons. His best year came in 2017, when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.

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While drops have been a concern at times, Funchess can cause plenty of matchup problems with his 6-foot-4 frame. Packers coach Matt LaFleur noted this week that Funchess “sure looks the part, there's no doubt about that."

“We are excited about him and just the depth that he adds to that room, the competition that he brings to that room,” LaFleur said. “Here’s a guy that’s played at a high level in this league. He was on that team that went to the Super Bowl in Carolina, so we’re excited just about his mentality and how he comes out on a daily basis.”

Funchess believes he’ll be able to do everything he did while at Carolina.

“I’m ready to play,” Funchess said. “I’m 27 years old. There’s nothing to question. I’m about to step into my prime, probably this year, next year, whatever it is.”

This minicamp has allowed Funchess to get to know his teammates better, though he was trying to keep in touch with them before now.

All-Pro receiver Davante Adams said he had communicated with Funchess via FaceTime six or seven times.

“I feel like I’ve known him longer than what I actually have,” Adams said. “He’s a great dude, competitor, (who’s) got high expectations for himself. He’s a dog, I can tell that. He’s as big as hell. He’ll be able to offer up a lot to us. He’s got the right mindset.”

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Funchess just needs time to adapt to a new offense and a new quarterback, whoever that might be. He signed with the Packers believing he’d be playing alongside Aaron Rodgers.

With Rodgers’ future uncertain as he skips mandatory minicamp, Funchess doesn’t know who will be throwing him passes this fall.

Funchess says the situation isn’t entirely unfamiliar for him. He signed with Indianapolis in March 2019 assuming his quarterback would be Andrew Luck, who unexpectedly retired that summer at the age of 29.

Funchess says that experience helped him realize the approach to take toward this situation.

“We need to just, all the media and everybody else, they need to understand the man handles his business and then we play with the 11 we have on the field, at that time,” Funchess said. “I’ve been there to the dance. I’ve been there with experience. You play with the 11 you have. You do your best, every play. That’s how you win. I need everybody, personally, just to let him do what he does and understand the 11 that we line up on the field, that’s who we’re going to have fun with at that time.”

Russell Wilson says he didn't request a trade from Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said Thursday that he did not request a trade this offseason and he believes conversations with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have strengthened his relationship with the team.

Wilson spoke for the first time since February, when a series of comments he made led to trade speculation and a growing furor surrounding his future in Seattle.

Wilson repeated numerous times that winning is the ultimate cure for any dissatisfaction and that any rifts with the franchise have been mended for now.

“We’re on the same page. We’re here to do what we’re meant to do and that’s to win it at all,” Wilson said. “I’m excited. I’m excited about who we have, the guys we have, excited where we are. Coach Carroll and I’s relationship couldn’t be stronger on it. Like I said earlier, my focus is to win. Winning means everything to me.”

But clearly frustration had been building over the team's performance and that led to the offseason firestorm that started after Wilson watched Tom Brady win another Super Bowl title in February.

“When I’m sitting at the Super Bowl and watching the Super Bowl, I should be (angry), right?” Wilson said. “At the end of the day you shouldn’t be wanting to sit there and watch the game. You want to be there and play, especially when you’ve played in it twice.”

Seattle won its only Super Bowl title eight years ago and it's been seven years since the Seahawks last won the NFC. The Seahawks haven’t advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs in any season since, and last year they were ousted in the wild-card round at home by division rival Los Angeles -- the first home playoff loss of Wilson’s career.

Wilson’s previous comments came after questions about whether the Seahawks were doing enough to put a winning product around him. He specifically mentioned his offensive line and being tired of constantly getting hit.

The conjecture reached a boil when Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, commented to ESPN that Wilson had not requested a trade but listed the four teams — Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans — for which he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.

“There was a whole thing saying that I requested a trade and that’s just not true. I didn’t request a trade, so I think everything kind of started from there,” Wilson said. “And then, obviously, tons of teams were calling, and I think that the reality was that I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. I wanted to play in Seattle. But if I had to go somewhere these are the teams I would go to, or consider.”

Packers TE Sternberger suspended 2 games under drug policy

Green Bay Packers reserve tight end Jace Sternberger has been suspended without pay for the first two games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

The decision by the league on Thursday means Sternberger will miss the Packers' Sept. 12 opener at New Orleans and Sept. 20 home game against Detroit. He will be eligible to return to the active roster Sept. 21, and he could play as early as Sept. 26 at San Francisco.

Sternberger remains eligible to participate in preseason games, as well as all practices.

The Packers declined to comment because the process is confidential.

Sternberger, a 2019 third-round pick from Texas A&M, dealt with injuries in each of his first two seasons. He spent the first half of his rookie year on injured reserve with an ankle injury and missed four games with a concussion last season.

Sternberger, who turns 25 on June 26, had 12 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in 12 games last season. He was inactive for each of the Packers’ two playoff games.

Chiefs lose OL Kyle Long to knee injury in voluntary workout

The offensive line that the Kansas City Chiefs aggressively overhauled this offseason has taken a hit with a knee injury to veteran Kyle Long during voluntary workouts that could require surgery and keep him out of training camp.

The 32-year-old Long came out of a one-year retirement designed largely to get him healthy to sign a one-year contract with the Chiefs, who completely recast their offensive line after it was decimated by injuries and opt-outs last season. But he failed to make it through three weeks of workouts before another injury sidelined him.

“We'll just see how he does here. It doesn't look like it's ligaments, but we'll see,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said following the last of the workouts Thursday. “There's a chance he has to have surgery on it, but we'll see where it's at.”

The Chiefs begin a three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday, then are off until reporting to training camp in late July.

Long has spent most of his career at right guard, but he also was a Pro Bowl selection at right tackle, and the Chiefs were keen to see him play both positions. Now, they are looking at former starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returning from his opt-out to play right guard and veteran Mike Remmers or 2020 draft pick Lucas Niang to play right tackle.