It didn’t take long for cornerback Josh Norman to find a suitor once the Carolina Panthers took back their franchise tag offer.
Now in Washington with a five-year deal worth up to $75 million, the All-Pro cornerback is feeling the love in the nation’s capital after getting the cold shoulder in Charlotte.
“I’m here to pay it forward and give back as much as I can to show someone else. I took that approach,” Norman said at Washington’s team facilities Monday in his first press conference with his new squad. “Now I’m a leader for a team, a team that really wants me and truly does value me and what I can bring to the table. And I’m ready to give everything I’ve got to them.”
Now I’m a leader for a team, a team that really wants me and truly does value me and what I can bring to the table.
Washington cornerback Josh Norman
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It was one of two veiled shots Norman took Monday at the Panthers, the team that offered Norman a four-year, $44 million deal but was ultimately going to settle for Norman to play 2016 under the $13.95 million franchise tag.
Norman has said he was blindsided by Carolina’s decision last week to rescind the tag, something seldom done in the NFL.
“When you’ve been somewhere for 28 years of your life,” said Norman, who was born in South Carolina, “and kind of by night get snatched up out of there, it’s a shaking feeling. It was shaking the foundations of what you know.”
‘No bubble or box’
The other apparent criticism of Carolina came toward the end of the press conference. Norman bragged about his fellow defensive backs in Washington and looked forward to more opportunities to be himself in a defensive scheme.
“I’m so appreciative of the (defensive coordinator) and my position coach so much because they allow me to be myself and allow me to do the things that I’ve done,” Norman said. “I can’t speak enough of that and I really do appreciate them not trying to put me in no bubble or box. Let me do my thing. Some of my other coaches did it when I was in Carolina, but here I’m really going to show you something different.”
Under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, the Panthers have regularly been a zone defense. Norman played mostly in cover-3 last season, and he took criticism from some around the league for being a “system” corner rather than a lockdown, man defender.
I really do appreciate them not trying to put me in no bubble or box. Let me do my thing. Some of my other coaches did it when I was in Carolina, but here I’m really going to show you something different.
Of course, it was in Carolina’s system that Norman went from a fifth-round pick to inactive player to one of the best at his position in the span of four seasons.
But Norman’s criticisms did not include his former teammates, of whom he spoke highly.
“Back in Carolina, they’re my guys. They’re my teammates, my brothers,” he said. “I loved each and every one of them. Nothing has changed that perspective for me. I’m human. This happened kind of overnight in a way. I’ve still got those feelings. But you’ve got to know it’s a business and for me I just looked at that and took it as, I’m here to help someone else.”
The feeling in Charlotte among some of Norman’s elite teammates was mutual. Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis said it was “disappointing” the team and Norman couldn’t come to terms but understands the business side of it.
Tight end Greg Olsen said it’s never in the plans to lose good players, but that he and the players trust general manager Dave Gettleman and his staff after helping the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.
“He got out there and bet on himself a handful of times this year,” Olsen said. “There’s something to be said, a lot of a credit is deserved, for a guy who had confidence in himself to not take that deal last year but play all season and play at a high level. And then this year he wanted to get a contract that he had in his mind and he was able to find that in Washington. I don’t think you’ll find a guy here that doesn’t wish him the best.”
‘Recruited’ to Washington
A walk-on at Coastal Carolina and an unheralded draft pick, Norman had never experienced the recruitment process.
He finally felt it this past week when Washington sent him a personalized jersey and sent a cadre of black SUVs to pick up his family from the airport and host them at the team facilities.
“It was like a party,” Norman said. “I got a feeling on how those first rounders felt when all the glitz and glam started coming.”
When the Panthers took away the tag, fellow top cornerback Patrick Peterson sent out a since-deleted tweet saying “know your worth,” which was an apparent reference to Norman wanting more money than Carolina was willing to give.
In the whirlwind of the past five days, Norman clearly got word of it and had another parting shot.
“I guess you’ve got to know yourself,” Norman said, “know your worth. Huh? I guess I know myself. I guess I know my worth.”