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Panthers CB Josh Norman brings bat back, but will his swagger return?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The baseball bat that New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. reportedly felt threatened by two weeks ago was inside the locker of Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman on Thursday.

It was noticeably missing in the Carolina locker room last week as the NFL heard Beckham’s appeal of a one-game suspension as a result of three personal fouls in his battle with Norman.

So was the swagger that Norman has become known for during his first Pro bowl season.

Fellow cornerback Bene' Benwikere and coach Ron Rivera agreed that Norman was more mild-mannered in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to Atlanta, Carolina’s first setback of the season.

What did Norman think about that?

“I guess I didn’t have my bat with me, huh?’’ he said with a smile. “It is what it is. I’ve just got to be better this week.’’

The bat became a symbol for Benwikere and the Carolina secondary that they would keep bringing the wood. There were reports that Carolina practice squad player Marcus Ball confronted Beckham while holding the bat during pre-game warmups.

The Panthers denied the bat was used to threaten Beckham, but eliminated taking the bat onto the field prior to a game.

There was speculation that the controversy that lingered into the middle of last week played a factor in Norman’s more subdued attitude against the Falcons.

Norman was more subdued than normal again on Thursday as he talked about Sunday’s regular-season finale against Tampa Bay.

“Yeah, it’s been a long, long season,’’ Norman said. “A very long season, the amount of games we’ve played, everybody giving us their best shot. The media, always something.

“It’s been a toll, man.’’

But Norman insisted he’s not backing down because he’s toned down during interviews. He insisted the defense hasn’t lost its edge.

“I’ve been playing at a high caliber for so long, I can’t just stop now,’’ he said. “I can’t let off the gas now.’’

Rivera didn’t seem to mind a much calmer Norman -- at least during the week.

“That’s good, isn’t it?’’ he said. “It’s a good thing, I hope. It might be a huge plus for us.’’