JACKSONVILLE – Andrew Norwell, a first-team Associated Press All-Pro guard with the Carolina Panthers in 2017, signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in mid-March. For the Jaguars, the signing strengthened an already strong offensive line and should make an already potent running game that ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season more consistent and powerful. For Norwell, the signing capped a storybook first four NFL seasons that began with him signing as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and ended him signing a multi-year, mega-contract with a team that came within minutes of the Super Bowl last season. Norwell this week sat down with senior writer John Oehser, discussing a variety of topics including his transition to a new team, his journey from undrafted player to All-Pro multimillionaire and what he means when he says “Staying Green…”
Question: The process of moving from one team to another for a free agent can be a tricky transition. You’re six weeks removed from your former team. What has the process been like?
Answer: “It’s not really tricky, because I just want to focus on myself and what I can control. If you just focus on what you can control that usually works out well because you’re not focused on other distractions and things that get in the way. It’s an adjustment, and I feel like I’ve handled it OK so far. We’re in our third week of offseason training. I love it here. I haven’t gotten the heatwave yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m focusing on what I can control, starting fresh, staying green, being a sponge and soaking up everything.”
Q: That phrase – “staying green” … it’s one you like. What does it mean?
A: “It’s just, ‘Staying fresh.’ I heard it from [former Carolina defensive coordinator] Steve Wilks, who’s now the head coach at [the NFL’s] Arizona [Cardinals]. He put a green tomato up. Everyone was like, ‘What is that … a green pepper?’ But it was a green tomato. He made a big speech about staying green. It’s tough to do, especially when you’re in the season and you have hurts and little stuff. But you try to stay green.”
Q: At some point since you signed with the Jaguars, there had to be a moment when you realized the dream had come true … that you had gone from an undrafted rookie to a mega contract. Have you had that moment, and what was it like?
A:“It was just really hard work that got me to where I’m at. I had seen other guys do it, other guys around me. They had made it to where I am now and I just told myself, ‘Why can I not be one of those guys?’ I set a goal to be the best I could be. Every time I walk out on the field, basically, I’m going to leave it all out there and have no regrets. That’s the way I like to play – just leave it all out there on the field, leave no regrets. If you do that, you should be OK. You’ll have no regrets and no questions.”
Q: Easy to do that in your first four years …
A: (Nodding) “When you’re under the radar, yep …”
Q: Will it be harder now? Or is that what you’re going to find out?
A:“I’m just going to keep working. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m not going to change. I’m always going to be the same guy, finishing in practice and getting guys motivated, setting the tempo. That’s just who I am. That’s the type of player I am.”
Q: You’ve been around Jaguars offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and Head Coach Doug Marrone for a couple of weeks now. Thoughts?
A: “It’s great. It’s offensive line. Especially with Mylo (strength and conditioning coordinator Tom Myslinski) in the weight room … all three of them are very offensive-dominant coaches. They have a lot of experience on the offensive line, which is great. You hear different perspectives and coaching points. It’s going to be a good deal. I think offensive linemen will thrive here, just as [center] Brandon Linder has, and JP (offensive tackle Jermey Parnell) and (guard) A.J. Cann have.”
Q: Impressions of Marrone?
A: “You can tell he cares a lot about his guys. That’s what you want to see in a head ball coach. He likes working his guys with an old-school approach to everything.”
Q: Doug’s the first one to say that while OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamps are great, you can’t tell much about an offensive line until training camp. Looking forward to getting this thing rolling in August?
A: “I like this process now. It’s building blocks, getting footwork down and working techniques. If you’re one percent better every day, you can be 365 percent better than you were last year. You practice how you want to play and you never want to waste a rep, so I like this time of year. This is a crucial part, I think, then training camp … you’re together as a team 24 hours a day. You can’t get rid of the guys. But that builds a team. That’s how important training camp is. That’s where the team comes together and forms a special bond. I’m looking forward to going to work with these guys every day.”
Q: Doug has said a couple of times when discussing you that this team wants to be tough and old school, and that you fit that persona and approach. Assuming you feel the same way …
A: “I like that – the tradition of game and how it’s supposed to be played. I realize there are new rules going in. But the game of O-Line hasn’t changed. The techniques are still the same. The philosophies and stuff are still the same. It’s just different coaches coaching different ways, but it’s still the same. It doesn’t have to look pretty, but you just have to get the job done, be consistent and be the same guy every day.”
Q: Any pressure coming in?
A: “Not really. I’m just going to be myself and that should take care of it. Like I said earlier, I can only control what I can control and that’s doing my job to the best of my ability and protecting the franchise quarterback: Leave no regrets and just go all out, 100 percent. (Laughing) That makes it easy, but it’s a lot of hard work and I’m not afraid of it.”
Q: When you saw the draft this week and then saw undrafted guys getting signed all over the league, does that still drive you?
A: “Not really. It did when I was a rookie, but it just made me who I am today. I played with a chip on my shoulder my rookie year. I had to earn it. I saw how valuable this short period of time is playing football. I just built off of it.”