Carolina Panthers

NFC Defensive Player of the Month Josh Norman ready for another challenge

Panthers head to Tampa Bay 3-0 with Jonathan and Joe

Charlotte Observer writers Jonathan Jones and Joe Person discuss the Panthers upcoming game vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Panthers have started the season at 3-0.
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Charlotte Observer writers Jonathan Jones and Joe Person discuss the Panthers upcoming game vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Panthers have started the season at 3-0.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman didn’t know he’d been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month until Thursday afternoon when he arrived at Bank of America Stadium.

It was suggested to Norman the honor was poetic justice after he failed to win the Defensive Player of the Week award after a big performance in a Week 1 victory at Jacksonville.

“I guess you could say that. It worked out in my favor. I was blessed on my end to be able to win the overall one,” Norman said. “We’re going to keep pounding. We’re going to keep going. We’re 3-0 right now, so we’re going to try to move to 4-0 before our break.”

Norman missed Thursday’s practice to take care of a personal issue. He declined to elaborate on the situation after getting to the stadium about 30 minutes after practice ended.

He’s playing with a lot of confidence, doing a lot of good things the right way. And that’s a huge plus.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, on DB Josh Norman

Norman, who is in a contract year and wants to be paid like a top-tier corner, is the first Panthers defensive back to win one of the league’s monthly awards.

Norman is tied for the league lead with two interceptions and his five pass breakups are tied for the most in the NFL. The fourth-year corner came up with two takeaways against the Jaguars – including an interception he returned for a touchdown – and he sealed last week’s victory over New Orleans with an interception in the end zone in the final two minutes.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence, doing a lot of good things the right way. And that’s a huge plus,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “This young man has matured as a solid football player in this league.”

Norman said he’s looking forward to facing Tampa Bay and its tall receiving tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Norman held the 6-foot-5 Evans to two catches for 13 yards in a Panthers victory last December, but one of those was an 8-yard touchdown reception that Norman said stuck in his craw.

Evans was bothered by a hamstring injury at the start of this season. But Bucs rookie quarterback Jameis Winston targeted Evans 17 times (resulting in seven catches for 101 yards) last week in a 19-9 loss to Houston.

“I’m just excited that I’m getting to play these two tall, big physical going-and-getting-the-ball wide receivers,” Norman said. “They’re towers, man. You’ve got to guard them somehow. And you’ve got to put your hands on them and do the best you can to defend them.”

The Panthers have moved toward bigger cornerbacks in part to handle the tall receivers in the NFC South. In addition to Tampa Bay’s tandem, the Falcons’ Julio Jones and Roddy White also are big wideouts.

Norman and nickel corner Bené Benwikere are listed at 6 feet, and Charles Tillman is 6-2.

“Carolina likes big corners now,” Norman said. “I think they graduated to the point where the last couple years we’ve been seeing 6-1 and above corners playing on the outside.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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