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Goal-oriented Norman establishing himself

Posted Sep 14, 2012

Rookie cornerback Josh Norman didn't mince words in the days leading up to his first NFL training camp.

"I know what I want to be. I approach it with goals," Norman said. "My first goal is to start."

The fifth-round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina went off to Spartanburg with that objective at the forefront of his mind.

But on the third day of camp, Norman sustained a hamstring injury. Instead of accumulating valuable snaps and proving his worth on the field, Norman was stuck riding an exercise bike on the sideline.

That made earning a starting role all the more difficult.   

"The hardest thing for me was sitting down on the sidelines, riding that bike every day, watching the guys go hard in practice," Norman said. "I just wanted to be out there."

Eventually, Norman got his chance.

He returned to action with four training camp practices remaining and made the most of the time he had left to make an impression.

Grabbing five interceptions on the second-to-last day of training camp certainly helped his cause. And according to Norman, the time away helped his development.  

"I sat down and really got back into my playbook," Norman said. "I got down to the plays and what the coaches want us to run and once I got that figured out, it started to click for me on the sideline. When I got in the practice, I just tried to put that into it. It just rolled from there."

Norman continued to gain the trust of the coaches through the preseason, and when the Panthers defense took the field for the first time in the regular season opener, Norman trotted onto the field as a starting cornerback opposite veteran Chris Gamble.

"That really signified what I wanted to do," Norman said of becoming a starter. "Being a starter is a lot of responsibility, and I don't take that lightly."

Secondary/passing defense coordinator Steve Wilks said Norman put forth a "decent" performance in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, when he was often lined up against veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson – who has recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards three of the last four years.

Wilks added that Norman gathered himself after the Buccaneers scoring drive to start the game and began displaying the physicality and confidence that led the coaches to tab him as a starter.

"I thought he handled everything well with the first game. When you're starting for the first time in the regular season, it's a little different. He did an outstanding job just handling the pressure," Wilks said.

"He's growing and he's progressing. He understands that he's still a long way away."

Starting was just the first step for Norman as he begins to establish himself in the NFL. Like any good defensive back, Norman needs to have a short memory and move on to the next play.

"That was on the list of things to accomplish," he said. "Once I got that done, it was on to the next goal."

What's next on the list?

"To make the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl," Norman said. "And I have a goal to be a Pro Bowler. I have lofty, lofty expectations, and in those expectations you have to do the little things to get to that point.

"There can't be anything less."