Panthers CB Horn to undergo surgery; Norman set for workout

The Carolina Panthers are turning to a familiar face to possibly solve a major problem at cornerback ahead of their all-important Week 17 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Veteran cornerback Josh Norman, who played for the Panthers from 2012 to 2015, will work out for the team on Monday in hopes of signing with the squad.

Norman, who turned 35 this month, is the top free agent on the market, and his background with Steve Wilks makes him the ideal candidate to possibly replace top corner Jaycee Horn, who will undergo wrist surgery on Tuesday, according to the interim head coach.

While Norman hasn’t played this season, he did produce 7 forced fumbles in 16 games (14 starts) for the San Francisco 49ers last season.

Wilks said he spoke with GM Scott Fitterer on Monday after it became clear that Horn would need a procedure to fix his broken wrist.

“If things go according to plan, we’ll try to sign him and get him on the roster,” Wilks said.

Wilks added that if Norman were to sign, he wouldn’t immediately be thrust into the starting lineup. Wilks said he had confidence in Keith Taylor Jr. and T.J. Carrie to play opposite C.J. Henderson.

Norman played under Wilks during the coach’s first tenure in Carolina as a defensive backs coach. Norman became one of Wilks’ prized pupils, as he grew from being a fifth-round pick to an All-Pro under Wilks’ leadership.

The Panthers franchise-tagged Norman following his Pro Bowl and All-Pro campaign in 2015, but eventually rescinded the offer when it became clear that a deal couldn’t be worked out. Norman went on to sign a massive contract with Washington, where he played until 2019.

Over the past two seasons, Norman spent time with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers.

“He has experience in this league, he brings veteran leadership, and most importantly, I feel like he possesses our DNA,” Wilks said. “I know him personally, he played for me, he understands the culture that we’ve tried to create here and the element of play that we’re looking for.”

Regarding Horn’s surgery, Wilks said he wouldn’t rule Horn out for the rest of the regular season due to past experiences with similar injuries. Once the procedure is completed, the Panthers will figure out Horn’s return timeline.

In regards to other injuries, receiver/returner Shi Smith will undergo an MRI after injuring his foot against the Detroit Lions on Saturday, according to Wilks. The interim head coach also said that receiver/returner Andre Roberts (knee) made progress last week during his workouts under the 21-day practice window on injured reserve.

“I’m hoping that he can give us that spark in the kicking game this week,” Wilks said about Roberts. “So, we’ll see where he is.”

Mike Kaye covers the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Kaye previously covered the entire NFL for Pro Football Network, the Philadelphia Eagles for NJ Advance Media and the Jacksonville Jaguars for First Coast News. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida.

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