- Associated Press - Monday, December 26, 2022

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers have signed 35-year-old cornerback Josh Norman to the practice squad because starter Jaycee Horn’s status for Sunday’s crucial game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is up in the air.

Horn broke his left wrist in Carolina’s 37-23 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday and will have surgery Tuesday, interim coach Steve Wilks said. Wilks said it has yet to be determined if Horn will be able to play with a club on his arm or if he is done for the remainder of the season.

The Panthers signed Norman, who used to play for Carolina, to the practice squad with the intention of him playing Sunday against the Bucs. If Horn is out, Norman will back up Keith Taylor at cornerback.

“He has experience in this league and he brings veteran leadership and most importantly he possesses our DNA,” Wilks said of Norman. “I know him personally and he played for me. He understands the culture we are trying to create here and the level of play we are looking for.”

Norman spent four seasons in Carolina (2012-15), helping the Panthers reach the Super Bowl in his final season while earning All-Pro honors. But after initially placing the franchise tag on Norman following the 2015 season, then-general manager Dave Gettleman abruptly rescinded the offer.

Norman went on to sign a five-year, $75 million free agent contract with Washington, where he spent five seasons. He also had a season in Buffalo and San Francisco, starting 14 games last season with the 49ers and forcing a career-high seven fumbles. Norman has not played this season.

“I think it is a great replacement,” said linebacker Shaq Thompson, who was teammates with Norman in 2015. “He brings a veteran presence. And he’s been in big-time moments who has been in big-time games who knows how to play in big games. He knows how to play under pressure and it is good to see him here and good to have him back here in these colors.”

The Panthers (6-9) trail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8) by a game in the NFC South, but still control their own destiny because of head-to-head tiebreakers.

If Carolina beats Tampa Bay and New Orleans to close the season, it will secure its first division title since 2015 despite having a losing record. If the Panthers lose Sunday, their division title hopes are over. The Panthers held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in a check in a 21-3 win earlier this season.

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