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Panthers’ veterans give youngsters playoff crash course

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The last time Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman talked to the media, he was still in full uniform more than 20 minutes after the Panthers’ NFC South-clinching win in Atlanta. His eyes remained wide open while he ranted about NFL analysts who counted Carolina out during and after its two-month winless slump.

Two days later, Norman stood in front of his locker at Bank of America Stadium smiling and seemingly much more relaxed.

“I’m anxious. I’m very anxious. But I’m also calm right now, and that’s a good thing,” Norman said with a laugh.

The Panthers needed Norman’s emergence to get this far, but they also need the fiery third-year player to control his emotions once Saturday’s wild card matchup with the Cardinals arrives.

It has been well-documented how the inexperienced Panthers lost their cool early in last year’s playoff loss to the 49ers. But Norman was inactive for that game, so this will be his first postseason experience, just like it will be for 20 others on the Panthers’ roster.

“Your emotions, your energy levels are going to be high to start off the game. You’ve got to try to keep that balanced and realize it’s a long game, it’s a long postseason. Just approach it like we have the last couple weeks,” tight end Greg Olsen said when asked to share his advice for younger players.

This is the third playoff appearance for Olsen, who is in his eighth season. For safety Roman Harper, it is his fifth trip in nine years.

He has seen the ups, winning the 2009 Super Bowl with the Saints. And he has seen the downs, losing on an 11-win team to the seven-win Seahawks a year later.

“I’ve been in that situation where you think that, ‘Oh man, this is going to be my time to shine. Everybody’s going to be watching.’ And then you fall right on your face,” Harper said. “The thing is, you control yourself. Contain yourself. Continue to prepare the same way we have been.”

“Minute details are what it’s all about in the playoffs. The tempo picks up a little bit more. The whole emotions of it, everybody’s wanting it so bad. Your plays are going to come. You just need to make them when they do.”


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