Ex-Chants Norman, Tolbert off to rocky start at Carolina

The annual bye week couldn’t come at a better time for the banged-up Carolina Panthers and a pair of first-year players from Coastal Carolina.

After a woeful 1-4 start that was capped by Sunday’s disappointing 16-12 loss to Seattle, former Chants Mike Tolbert and Josh Norman were already looking forward to reversing the trend in two weeks against the Dallas Cowboys.

“The practices keep coming on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and all of the focus is going to be on Dallas,” said Norman, a rookie starting corner back for the Panthers who is the team’s third-leading tackler with 34. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Looking ahead may be easier for Norman, who has a bright career ahead of him after making the quick transition from draftee to starting cornerback.

But for Tolbert, a free-agent signee fullback who has already tasted success with the San Diego Chargers, there’s a sense of urgency to turn things around.

“Execute. We didn’t execute all day,” said Tolbert, who had only one carry for three yards and no receptions in Sunday’s loss. “The defense played great. We just didn’t execute. It all goes back to the same thing. We just have to execute.”

The frustration is understandable for Tolbert, who rushed and received for a combined 2,534 yards and 27 touchdowns in four seasons with the Chargers. His homecoming to the East Coast has seen a huge dropoff in production, 11 carries for 26 yards and 1 TD and 10 receptions for 86 yards.

But it’s a mixed bag for Norman, who also hates losing but also understands the growing pains that comes with playing at the next level. Although he has been impressive individually, going up against top-flight receivers such as Victor Cruz and Roddy White, and the defense has performed admirably (the Panthers have held opponents to 12 points or less in three of their four losses), Norman knows that it all comes down to wins and losses.

“You hate feeling like this (after the loss to the Seahawks), but at the same time it is a learning experience,” said Norman. “We still believe in the vision. Nothing’s changed. Nothing has changed at all. We are going to keep pressing (on).”

Despite a rocky start with the Carolina Panthers, a pair of Coastal Carolina alums are staying the course.

“Believe in Coach (Ron) Rivera and the coaching staff that we have.  With Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, and (Secondary/Defensive Passing Coordinator) Steve Wilks, we believe in them to the utmost. Nothing is going to change in that direction. Focus every week in and every week out.”

Photo by Joel Beachum

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