Norman On Kuechly: It Makes You Wonder "What If?"

Josh Norman reacted to Luke Kuechly's retirement and reflected on their time playing together

Zach Gelb
January 16, 2020 - 11:55 am
Luke Kuechly Josh Norman Super Bowl 50

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Former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman dropped by CBS Sports Radio to react to Luke Kuechly’s sudden retirement, as well as reflect on their time playing together. Norman and Kuechly played together from 2012-15 and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance in their final season as teammates.

“I think [his announcement] took everybody by shock,” Norman said on The Zach Gelb Show. “It really did, just by his abrupt ending. But the thing is, he’s been talking about it for a while, I think. I talk to him here and there. We was always trying to find a way to band this thing back together again. That was always the hope. For him, I think it was time. He felt that he wasn’t going to go past 10 years, and for him, this was one of those segues for him to do that. All respect to his decision and everything. It’s just one of those things, man.”

Norman believes many factors led to Kuechly’s retirement: health concerns, sure, but also a changing of the guard. The Panthers’ 2015 defense was elite, and most of the players from that unit are long gone.

“As more guys leave, you’re looking at it as my buddies,” Norman said. “I’m playing with my buddies, man. Sometimes that affects you more than the game itself. Playing with friends and people that’s around you and you see them gone and it’s just you, it’s a lonely feeling, man. It really is. It makes you contemplate about a lot of things. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I know that must have been one of the things that he must have thought about during that time – because I know I think about it a good bit. For him to be that player he is, it saddens the football world because of how great he was and how great he still is. To see a guy like that, of that magnitude, just abruptly end his career, it’s something to be taken aback by. But people who know him and people who talk to him on the regular, they understand.”

Norman and Kuechly didn’t always see eye-to-eye in their early days, but they grew to love each other. Norman called Kuechly “an all-around guy” and “one of my best friends in this game.”

After the Panthers lost Super Bowl 50, they couldn’t reach a new deal with Norman, who signed a five-year $75 million deal with the Redskins.

“[Luke’s retirement] takes you into that what-if space, and I kind of feel like a little part of me kind of let those guys down in a sense,” Norman said. “It kind of hit me. But at the same time, we got to play the cards that we’ve been dealt. But man, he was definitely Captain America if there ever was one.”

As for the 32-year-old Norman, his primary goal is to play in another Super Bowl.

“I’m going to try my best,” he said. “That’s literally what I’m fighting for. That’s literally why I’m in the league still."