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Norwell, Foucault stay in line

Posted Sep 1, 2014

Pair of undrafted rookies earn roster spots along Panthers' offensive front.

CHARLOTTE – Undrafted rookie guard Andrew Norwell thought he did everything possible in the preseason to earn on spot on the Panthers' 53-man roster.

But when decision day arrived Saturday, Norwell didn't know what to think.

"There were a lot of what-ifs – if you did enough, if you impressed the coaches enough," Norwell said. "I felt like I had a pretty good camp and that I did a great job in the preseason games, but I didn't know where I was going to fall."

Norwell fell on the positive side of the ledger, surviving cuts along with nine other offensive linemen. All five of the Panthers' projected reserve linemen – and both starting tackles - went undrafted out of college, but only Norwell and Canadian tackle David Foucault are undrafted rookies.

Players typically don't want their phone to ring on the morning of final cuts, but Foucault took it in stride – especially when his phone rang a second time.

"They told me they were going to put me on the practice squad, and I was very happy for that news. I called my family and friends, and everybody was happy," Foucault said. "And then two hours after, they called me again, and they said they wanted to put me on the roster.

"I was very happy. I had to re-call my family. It was very crazy."

While Foucault ate up his cell minutes fielding calls from well-wishers and also from three-plus hours of interviews with media in Canada, Norwell let his brother do the heavy lifting. The youngest of seven children, Norwell texted his good news to his brother, Chris, a former Illinois defensive lineman who played three preseason games with the Minnesota Vikings in 2008.

Chris Norwell, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his NFL stint but regained full health, taught Andrew Norwell a thing or two that helped him make the cut.

"I play with a grit and toughness. I finish," Norwell said. "I know I have to be relentless on the field, and I did a good job of learning the plays and learning from my mistakes and not repeating them."

Even though it's a time of celebration for Norwell and Foucault, it's not a time to rest on their laurels. They were quickly reminded of that Monday when head coach Ron Rivera confirmed the Panthers had brought in recently waived wide receivers Stephen Hill and Kadron Boone for workouts.

"Being in the NFL is very tenuous – you just don't know," Rivera said, adding that the Panthers had no immediate plans to sign either of the receivers. "It's the nature of this game. You're always trying to get better, so you've really got to take a nice, long look at people so you can say, 'Hey, I think this guy can help us,' or 'Hey, I like the guys we have. Let's give them a little bit more time and see if they can develop.' "

Rivera is pleased with how the offensive line group has developed. Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil will anchor the projected starters, flanked by tackle Byron Bell and guard Amini Silatolu on the left side, with tackle Nate Chandler and rookie guard Trai Turner on the right side.

The second unit features veterans Garry Williams – who can play tackle and guard – and Fernando Velasco, who can play guard and center, in addition to second-year center Brian Folkerts.

Velasco, a former Pittsburgh Steeler who signed the day before training camp, suffered a ruptured Achilles late last season and called it a "blessing to be back." He took some first-team reps at guard Monday with Turner still working his way back from a groin injury.

"Our depth is great," Williams said. "The backup guys have to be ready all the time. Being here six years, I know anything can happen, so you have to be prepared and make sure you're working and pushing.

"Our starting five is legit, and our depth guys are legit."