Carolina Panthers

Josh Norman on Panthers exit: GM Dave Gettleman was all smiles – until the end

Cam Newton on Josh Norman

Following practice on Wednesday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke about former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman's competitiveness and analogies.
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Following practice on Wednesday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke about former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman's competitiveness and analogies.

Josh Norman says he never had any problems with Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman – right up to the moment Gettleman rescinded Norman’s franchise tag.

The jarring, almost unprecedented decision on April 20 sent the Panthers scrambling into rebuild mode in the secondary and was followed a few days later by Norman signing a five-year, $75 million contract with Washington that made him the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback.

But Norman’s preference was to stay with the Panthers, who’d made the Super Bowl two months earlier in Gettleman’s third season as GM.

“He’d always been nice to me. He always was smiling, cracking jokes with us. But when you’re smiling and cracking jokes, you never know behind your back it’s totally different,” Norman told the Observer.

“When it comes down to it, I guess it’s all about money than it is relationships.”

With Washington (7-5-1) preparing to host the Panthers (5-8) on Monday night, Norman addressed his sudden exit from Charlotte and several other Panthers-related topics during a 20-minute phone interview Wednesday night.

Gettleman told reporters at the NFL combine in February he was comfortable letting Norman play the 2016 season under the franchise tag, which would pay the Pro Bowl corner a guaranteed $13.95 million.

... when you’re smiling and cracking jokes, you never know behind your back it’s totally different.

Josh Norman, on his relationship with Dave Gettleman

Norman never signed the tag – a negotiating ploy while he and agent Mike George tried to get the Panthers to raise their ante. Meanwhile, the stalled contract talks prompted Gettleman to rethink his position on a one-year contract.

Norman questioned the timing of Gettleman’s decision, which came three months before the start of training camp and a possible holdout.

“It was just so premature to the point where they saw nothing was gonna work, when clearly you had enough time to make something work,” Norman said. “It all depended on how they wanted to take it. I think they probably had that in their mind for quite some time.”

Norman had watched Gettleman trade or cut other veterans – including linebacker Jon Beason and receiver Steve Smith – whom players believed were part of the team’s core.

“And then for some odd reason, the next day, without knowing about it, out of the blue, they just happened to not be there anymore,” Norman said, laughing.

Josh Norman has warmer feelings about his ex-Panthers teammates, whom he called his “brothers.”

“I think when you split ways and part ways the way you do, things come back on you the way they do,” Norman said. “I’m a strong believer in treating people the way you want to be treated.”

Gettleman declined an interview request by the Observer this week.

Norman has warmer feelings about his ex-Panthers teammates, whom he calls his “brothers.”

In the offseason in Atlanta, he plays basketball and volleyball games that pit Norman and his brothers against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Newton’s cousins.

Given the way Norman and Newton go at it in those pickup games – not to mention their training camp fight in 2015 – Norman is certain Newton will come out firing passes in his direction Monday night.

“Do you think he is just going to actually shy away? I don’t,” Norman said.

Norman said facing Newton is like experiencing “some kind of competitive high that neither one of us wants to fall off of because we want to win that bad.”

“And if we lose,” he added, “we’re not saying nothing for the whole day. We’re (mad) at the world.”

Josh Norman scoffed at Dave Gettleman’s belief that you’re never one player away from a Super Bowl. “I guess he wants to take those words back.”

Norman didn’t have much time to be mad after Gettleman pulled the franchise tag. Two days later he was on a plane to Washington, where the team’s decision-makers wouldn’t let him leave without a contract agreement.

After talk early this season whether Norman was a “system corner” who benefited from the Panthers’ zone concepts, Norman has settled in with Washington. His former teammates say they’ve not noticed a drop-off in his production.

But Norman has seen the Panthers slip precipitously after last season’s 15-1 regular-season mark and playoff run to Super Bowl 50.

“You can’t take a position out of a well-oiled machine like that, and then take it away and let it go somewhere else and expect it to run like it used to,” Norman said. “Not just saying myself. I think there’s a lot of other pieces to it.”

Norman says there’s little doubt the Panthers are feeling the effects of letting him walk. And he scoffed at Gettleman’s belief that you’re never one player away from a Super Bowl.

“I guess he wants to take those words back,” Norman said, laughing again. “He may have to rehash the notion that he doesn’t subscribe to one player.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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