Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman has his bat back, although reclaiming his swagger remains a work in progress.
Four days after his worst game of the season, Norman seemed worn down by recent events – the fallout from his on-field run-ins with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the resulting $26,000 in fines, and the Panthers’ first loss of the season, including his struggles against Julio Jones in the 20-13 defeat at Atlanta.
“It took a toll on me to the point where I haven’t completely – I got over it. But I know me as a competitor and my drive, a sour taste left in my mouth,” Norman said Thursday. “I don’t like stuff as such. I feel as if we’ll come out better this week as a whole, as a group, as a defensive unit.”
Norman, a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, allowed Jones to catch five passes for 80 yards when he was covering him. Cornerback Bené Benwikere said this week Norman didn’t play with his usual fire against the Falcons, a notion that Panthers coach Ron Rivera agreed with.
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Norman said he wasn’t certain whether his widely publicized scrums with Beckham, who received a one-game suspension for his role, carried over into the Falcons game.
“I have no idea. I really don’t. I guess I didn’t have my bat with me, huh?” Norman said. “I’ve just got to be better this week, I guess.”
Norman was referring to the black baseball bat the Panthers secondary used as a motivational prop. But the Panthers discontinued the tradition after the Giants claimed Beckham felt intimidated when Carolina practice squad player Marcus Ball had it during warmups at MetLife Stadium last month.
The bat was in Norman’s locker Thursday. But the normally upbeat Norman was noticeably reserved.
“It’s been a long, long season, very long season with the amount of games we’re playing with everybody giving us their best shot,” Norman said. “It’s been a toll. But at the same time we know that to whom much is given much is required. We’ve got to stay the course and keep fighting regardless of what we’re going through.”