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Panthers coaches play nice with Josh Norman

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The Panthers are headed to Washington to check out cornerback Josh Norman's new digs next Monday, and chances are his ouster from Carolina will come up at some point this week.

Panthers coaches and coordinators tried to get out ahead of the bluster on Monday with a series of largely milquetoast observations about the premiere cornerback, who had his franchise tag rescinded by general manager Dave Gettleman during the offseason after the team and Norman could not agree on a long-term deal.

Head coach Ron Rivera said he never thought about benching Norman in Carolina. Though it seems like a long time ago, he was once known for being an uneven player.

"No (I never thought about benching him in Carolina) because we saw the talent and we saw the ability," Rivera said, via Black and Blue Review. "We got frustrated with him, and he's stubborn, and he's hardheaded, but he's tremendously talented, and we know that. You don't give up on talented players; that's one of the things that Dave used to always chirp to us about.

"I know (assistant head coach and defensive backs coach Steve) Wilks put a lot of work into Josh and Steve had a lot of faith that the kid was going to get it and he was going to be something special. We saw it when he first got here, but it was just a matter of him playing disciplined, playing within the scheme, and then we saw the 2014 season, and it really flourished in 2015. Then we really saw who he could become."

Rivera added that he and Norman have spoken several times since he left, most notably when Norman was suffering from a concussion back in late October.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott also seemed interested in wrapping this up as neatly as possible.

"Here's what I'll say about Josh: Josh is a good player and I enjoyed coaching him when he was here," McDermott said. "To say what he does for their defense and get into all those deals, those are really not for me to answer right now. I really want to focus on their players and their offense. If I spend time focusing on Josh this week, DeSean Jackson’s running by me at the same time."

Here's our bold prediction for the week: Norman leaves some breadcrumbs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the emotional, feature-length segment on Sunday where he bares all about his acrimonious departure and how it's motivated him to become the best cornerback in football.

Norman is wonderfully garrulous and will not sit on the opportunity to inject some theater heading into a matchup where his potentially playoff-bound Redskins (7-5-1) are hosting the home-bound Panthers (5-8). This is not the last we'll hear of The Departure.

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