<
>

'Bomb Squad' defused, but Jaguars' Brad Nortman still kicking it in playoffs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Brad Nortman admits his social media game isn’t what it was two seasons ago with the Carolina Panthers. He misses the influence of place-kicker Graham Gano, who during a 2015 run to the Super Bowl hacked the punter’s cell phone and tweeted out a picture that made it appear he was cheering for Cam Newton’s Auburn Tigers to beat his Wisconsin Badgers in a bowl game.

Nortman, Gano and deep snapper J.J. Jansen affectionately were known as the “Bomb Squad."

The picture they took together with Snoop Dogg and tweeted out at Super Bowl 50 still, Nortman said, “has the most likes of all of mine."

“He just loved him some Carolina specialists,” Nortman said of the rapper.

But Nortman’s punting game remains strong since he arrived in Jacksonville in 2016. This season he had a career-high 29 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, tying him for the fifth most in Jaguars franchise history.

And he has a chance to get back to the Super Bowl if the Jaguars can get past Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

“When I went through it the first time with Carolina, you savor it because you don’t know how many opportunities you will get, so I’m taking the same approach,” Nortman said.

Nortman is one of only four Jaguars players who have played in a Super Bowl. The others are defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Lerentee McCray.

Jacksonville’s roster is so shy of playoff experience that Norman has the third-most appearances with six games.

It’s not often that special-teams players are asked for playoff advice, but if Nortman were giving any, it would be “not to change anything.”

“We have a formula that works for us and works for each individual person,” he said. “Whatever you’ve been doing, just keep at it. Don’t make the opportunity too big. You don’t want to do anything too far outside yourself. That can bring on more issues than benefits.”

Nortman had hoped things wouldn’t change in terms of employment following the 2015 season, but the Panthers' offer wasn't close to the four-year, $8.8 million deal the Jaguars offered.

Nortman wouldn’t elaborate, other than to say, “I just received a better offer here.”

The 2016 season was tough. Nortman went from a team that went an NFL-best 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl to one that finished 3-13, Jacksonville’s ninth straight non-winning season.

But this season has made the move worth it for Nortman. The Jaguars finished 10-6 in the regular season and have marched past Buffalo and Pittsburgh to the conference championship game.

One more victory and Nortman is off to another Super Bowl, this one in Minneapolis, about 300 miles from his hometown of Brookfield, Wisconsin.

“It’s been a wild transformation,” Nortman said. “You know the taste of defeat and also of victory. It’s been really cool to see our team come together.”

Nortman still keeps track of what’s happening in Carolina, where in 2013 he set a franchise record with a gross punting average of 47.8 yards. He knows Newton and the other quarterbacks have taken over the corner of the locker room where the “Bomb Squad” once resided.

He knows about the allegations of workplace misconduct against team owner Jerry Richardson and the other off-the-field soap operas that occurred during Carolina’s season.

He talks to Gano and Jansen on a regular basis. He misses the car rides to the stadium with those two that became a big part of their social media game that was arguably the best on the Panthers.

“It was better in Carolina,” Nortman said of his social media game. “Graham always had a way of rubbing off on me. It’s lacked since I moved here, unfortunately.

“But I thought when I signed here, there was a lot of opportunity and talent and potential [to have a good team]. It’s cool to see that come to fruition.”