'Truly an honor' to be back with Panthers, says Norman, 35

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Josh Norman was running his Atlanta coffee bar that sits throughout the street from the stogie bar owned by previous Carolina Panthers colleague Cam Newton when interim coach Steve Wilks called the cornerback into emergency situation responsibility Sunday night.

Norman, 35, selected to invest the 2022 season getting his company — Omni Coffee & Eggs — off the ground with the idea of going back to the NFL just if the best scenario occurred.

That emerging taken place Saturday when Wilks — who established Norman from a fifth-round choice in 2011 into a first-team All-Pro in 2015 — lost beginning cornerback Jaycee Horn (damaged wrist) for Sunday’s video game at Tampa Bay with top place in the NFC South on the line.

Horn had surgical treatment Tuesday, and the group will assess in 10-12 days whether he might return for the regular-season ending at New Orleans.

Meanwhile, Norman was signed to the practice team Monday with the strategy to raise him to the 53-man lineup in time for the 1 p.m. video game versus Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Carolina (6-9) can win the department if it beats Tampa Bay (7-8) and New Orleans (6-9). That likewise would assist Wilks construct his case as he looks for to go from interim to full-time coach after the season.

“It truly was about charity and giving back to these kids and helping him out as much as we could,” Norman stated Wednesday of why he returned. “What I love about Wilks is he has that same mindset to want to give back.

“It’s simply really an honor for us to be here.”

This was Norman’s first time back in the Carolina locker room since the 2016 offseason, when then-Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman rescinded his franchise offer.

Norman spent the 2016-19 seasons with the Washington Commanders, 2020 with the Buffalo Bills and 2021 with the San Francisco 49ers.

Although much has changed at Carolina, the scenario facing it is similar to what Norman faced in 2014 when the Panthers won their final four games to win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record.

Norman, a young cornerback who boosted the 2014 run, doesn’t see why that can’t happen again.

“It’s among those things where you simply utilize self-confidence,” Norman said. “Being on that group at that time, having that frame of mind that no matter what, you’re constantly in it … what [Wilks] coached, laying vigorous, break up plays, how to utilize hands, simply all of it, it’s still there.

“I carried all that when I left here. It’s just like riding a bike without training wheels.”

Wilks stated Norman looked great in Wednesday’s practice, the corner’s very first complete exercise with the group. He stated the strategy is to bring Norman off the bench and have him play outdoors on unique bundles, confessing that Norman remains in shape however not video game shape.

Norman can’t state for sure whether he would be here if it weren’t for the relationship he has with Wilks. But he confessed’s unique being back on the group he assisted to an NFL-best 15-1 record and journey to the Super Bowl in 2015.

“I’m just a passenger on this ship,” Norman stated. “It’s like a dream or movie, but it’s actually real and it’s happening. It’s like one of those out-of-body experiences I’m still trying to process.”

But Norman’s self-confidence in needing to deal with Bucs pass receivers Julio Jones and Mike Evans, 2 gamers he prided himself on closing down in his prime, is still there.

“Those guys obviously are at the top of their game, still today,” Norman stated. “Nothing’s going to change that. It’s just because of who they are. At the end of the day, those guys know me, I know them. So we’re going to have some fun.”

Only linebacker Shaq Thompson and deep snapper J.J. Jansen stay on the Carolina lineup from when Norman last played. They see the very same swagger and “dawg” now that the cornerback had then.

“He’s always been an important part of what this place has been,” Jansen stated. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bring on board a veteran, a guy who knows this place, who knows this system. That’s a pretty unique opportunity in Week 17 of an NFL season.

“It’s great to understand how a person is going to run under fire. I’m grateful he’s here. He’s got a chance to assist us down the stretch run.”

Jansen wasn’t surprised at all to learn Norman and Newton had businesses across the street from each other. No two players defined the 2015 team more through their competitiveness and trash-talking.

It came to a head in the 2015 training camp when Norman intercepted a Newton pass and Newton ran him down for a tackle that turned into an all-out brawl.

Since then, they have been closer than ever. They even send customers to each other’s place.

Norman said it’s no different being across the street from each other than across the line of scrimmage.

“We’re not rivals,” Norman said. “We’re really fantastic company buddies.”

Although he hasn’t talked to Newton about his return to Carolina, which Newton did last season for a stretch run that wasn’t successful, he’s sure Newton is as excited for him as he is for himself.

“I could not compose the script any much better than what it is,” Norman said. “We’ve got a chance here to do something fantastic.”

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