SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Last year was shaping up to be a breakthrough year for cornerback Josh Norman.
The 2012 fifth-round pick from Coastal Carolina started 12 games as a rookie, and he was a playmaker in his second training camp. During the 2013 preseason, he led the NFL with four interceptions; no one else had more than two.
But when a communication breakdown led to the decisive touchdown in a loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 last year, Norman's involvement in the cornerback rotation decreased.
"That was his decision that was made, and I just went with it," Norman said. "I did what (head coach Ron Rivera) asked. At the end of the day it's his call."
Norman played in just seven games in 2013, but he's battling to prove he belongs on the field in 2014.
After missing the first seven training camp practices with a hamstring injury, Norman has returned to Carolina's heated cornerback competition.
"It gets frustrating any time when you sit down from an injury and you have to watch on the sideline. But you don't want to rush anything because that prolongs the time that you can actually be out there to do what you have to do," Norman said.
He feels healthy now and knows it's time to perform.
"Being a high-caliber athlete, we're not here to sit on the sideline and collect a check. We're here to play," Norman said. "That's why I was drafted."
Rivera has liked what he's seen in Norman's first days back.
"I was pleased with the effort and attitude," Rivera said. "He did some really good things, put himself in position to make a couple of plays, including a nice one on a deep ball. He's working himself right back into shape.
"It's just about maturing, about learning. One of the things about transferring what you do in the preseason games is about confidence. He's a young guy that came from a small program. When he's playing with confidence, he's pretty doggone good."
Norman insists confidence isn't an issue for him, and he believes it's a requirement to have sustained success at cornerback.
"My confidence is always high," Norman said. "Never do I ever think that I'm on anyone's low totem pole. I don't think anyone is going to take me over the top and just whip my tail the whole entire day.
"You just look at the likes of the top corners in the league – Richard Sherman, Patrick Petersen – all those guys, they are on an island. They are going to be confident. They have to be.
"I know my abilities and my capabilities," he added. "It's about getting out there and showing that."