CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Josh Norman was taken in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, there were immediate hopes he’d provide the missing ingredient to the Carolina Panthers’ secondary by being a shutdown cornerback.
The Panthers are still waiting for that to happen as Norman has constantly raised the ire of head coach Ron Rivera because of his spotty play and attitude.
If things don’t change relatively soon for Norman, there’s a very real chance this will be his last season in Carolina, provided he even makes the team. There was no better showing of that than what transpired Sunday night in the second quarter against Kansas City on national television.
Once Norman entered the game, he didn’t waste much time in singling himself out.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith scrambled to his left and slid, which caused Norman, who had launched himself into the air with a flying shoulder, to go flying over Smith and hitting nothing but air.
After Norman got to his feet, he got in Smith’s face and started barking at him.
Two plays later, Norman broke up a pass intended for Dwayne Bowe and immediately got into the receiver’s face to talk more trash. This caused Carolina linebacker and captain Thomas Davis to get into Norman’s face and chew him out for the whole stadium to see.
"We took him off the field. What we want guys to understand is that we have to maintain our composure on the football field," Rivera said. "That’s why we lost in the playoffs. It started with me. I made the mistake of getting caught up in that emotion. We have to learn how to control that.
"If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ve got to do those things the right way and we’ve got to be able to handle it. When we see it, we pull guys to the side and try to get that corrected. We’re not going to play that way. We’re going to play smart football."
Norman said he truly doesn’t think he did anything wrong and that’s the way this defense is built.
"When you’re between those white lines, it’s a dog’s life out there," Norman said. "It’s one of those things where it’s feast or famine, and I ain’t trying to be on no famine side. So, everything that I try to do, I try to go at it 110 percent hard to have that desire, that focus, that mindset.
"Our defense, you see those guys. We’re not no slaps. We’re an attack-oriented defense and every time you’re out there, you’ve just got to have that mindset and go after somebody. We do it under control and be in control of the situations and try not to get no flags or anything."
Again, the problem is this isn’t the first time Rivera has had issues with Norman. It started his rookie season and he was inactive 10 games last year due to him frustrating Rivera. Many just assumed Norman wouldn’t be back for a third season.
It’s the little things, like what happened with Bowe, that seems to get the coaches upset. However, Norman didn’t think he did anything wrong.
"It’s within the game," Norman said. "We get back-and-forth with each other, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get no flags or do anything to hurt the team. …
"I mean, what do you want us to be out there, little puppets? I mean, you want us to say nothing? It’s within the game. I don’t think we take it too far where either one of us is getting flagged on it. It was a play that was made, he felt some type of way about it than I did and we just talked it out. And at the end of the day nobody got flagged for it, so what’s the big deal?"
Norman admitted he was surprised when he was immediately benched.
Last year at this time, many thought Norman would be a starting cornerback. Twelve months later, he entered the first preseason game against Buffalo on the third-team depth chart.
"I’m just controlling what I can control and being where I can be," he said. "I’m just going to let everything happen and take care of itself. …
"At the end of the day, it don’t matter where you’re at. You’ve just got to make the best out of your situation. I know where I am and I know who I am. You’ve just got to be on top of your game every time you’re on the field regardless of if you’re with the 2s, 3s or 4s. You go out there and play ball."