As he walked off the practice field Tuesday following his first practice with the Carolina Panthers, new wide receiver Kevin Norwood was greeted by a big group of reporters and TV cameras.
“I feel the love,” Norwood said, smiling.
During a whirlwind 24 hours that began Monday, Norwood had been told he was being released in Seattle, then learned the Seahawks had traded him to Carolina for a conditional, late-round draft pick in 2017.
Then there was the cross-country flight.
“I’m exhausted. Getting on the flight coming over here, that was the worst. I hate flying,” Norwood said. “Not knowing the next team you’re going to be (with), getting cut, then getting traded. It’s crazy, but it all worked out in the end.”
For the Panthers, the trade brought a sure-handed wideout they hope will stabilize a receiving corps that has had trouble staying healthy and catching the ball the past two weeks.
For Norwood, it represents a fresh start after he struggled to work his way into the receiving rotation in Seattle.
When his agent told him Monday the Seahawks might try to trade him, Norwood said he thought he might end up in Charlotte. Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl put Norwood through a private workout at Alabama before last year’s draft.
“I liked him from the beginning,” Norwood said of Proehl. “He took me through the routes and he threw to me, which was pretty crazy. He told me about himself. It was real cool.”
The Panthers liked Norwood. But he ended up going in the fourth round to the Seahawks, whose doctors discovered bone spurs in Norwood’s foot they believe he developed in college.
Norwood ended up missing seven games as a rookie, and had limited reps when he returned. He caught nine passes for 102 yards in nine games last year, and had just two receptions in three exhibitions this year.
“I guess it wasn’t my opportunity to take,” Norwood said of his time in Seattle. “They have a great organization. They’re doing everything right. It just didn’t work out for me.”
Norwood, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, worked mostly with the third team Tuesday. He pulled down a touchdown pass from Joe Webb that Norwood tipped to himself with his left hand.
Catching the ball has not been the Panthers’ strong suit of late.
“The kid has exceptional hands,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He’s a big, strong wide receiver. We feel he’s talented and it was a chance to get him and work with him.”
The Panthers saw Norwood’s pass-catching skills first hand last October in Seattle’s 13-9 win. On the second play of the Seahawks’ game-winning drive, Russell Wilson zipped a throw that was a little behind Norwood.
Norwood turned around just as the pass was arriving and made the grab for a 10-yard gain on what Wilson called an “unbelievable catch.”
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who played at Auburn, pointed out that Norwood has “been affiliated with great organizations (since) leaving high school.” Norwood, a Mississippi native, was part of three national-champion teams at Alabama before joining the Seahawks following their Super Bowl-winning season of 2013.
“I just want guys to come in and be ready to play. It looks like (Norwood) is ready to do that,” Newton said. “This is a production league and if you’re not doing that – we’re all getting critiqued and watched each and every day. Trying to get better is something that has to happen.”
Norwood has the unenviable task of trying to learn at least some of the responsibilities for all three receiver spots before Thursday’s exhibition finale at Pittsburgh.
Gettleman said it helps that Norwood is smart and played in a passing offense at Alabama, which has concepts similar to the Panthers’.
“He’s really sharp. He understands offensive football,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He was in a good system coming out of college so we feel he’ll assimilate very nicely to us.
“It’s tough on him because he’s going to have to learn an awful lot in the next day and a half before he gets to the game,” Rivera added. “But like I said, he’s a smart football player and done some good things and he has some good tape from last year.”
Norwood, who will turn 26 in three weeks, said getting his arms around the playbook will be a process. In the meantime, he wants to get on the field in some capacity Thursday in Pittsburgh.
“I hope so,” he said. “Get me out there so I can catch some balls.”
The Panthers waived seven players and put receiver Kelvin Benjamin on injured reserve to get the roster down to 75 before Tuesday’s deadline: