Josh Norman, a key piece of the team's 2015 drive to the Super Bowl when interim coach Steve Wilks was in charge of the secondary, tried out for the team Monday and was signed to the practice squad. The expectation is that he will play at least a minor role against the Buccaneers with the division title up for grabs. Horn's availability for that game is uncertain.
"I want to not just go to the playoffs but go on a deep run," Norman said Monday, according to the team's official website.
Tampa Bay (7-8) has a one-game lead over Carolina (6-9), which can win the division by winning its final two games against the Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints (6-9).
Wilks said a determination on whether Horn will be able to return this season will not be made until after the surgery.
"I've seen certain scenarios where the surgery goes well and they are able to club it up and he can go play,'' Wilks said. "We have to wait and see exactly what the doctors and trainers say.''
Wilks said Norman, 35, was brought in for his experience, saying he has some of the same DNA that veteran cornerback Peanut Tillman and safety Roman Harper had when they joined the team in their 30s.
"He has experience in this league,'' Wilks said. "He brings veteran leadership. And most importantly I feel like he possesses DNA. He played for me. He understands the culture that we've tried to create here and the element of play that we're looking for.
"I'm hoping he's in well enough shape to where he can play for us this week.''
Norman hasn't played since last season, when he started 14 games for the San Francisco 49ers and forced a career-high seven fumbles.
He had his best season under Wilks in 2015 when he was selected first-team All-Pro. The next offseason, after Carolina rescinded his nonexclusive franchise tag, he signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Washington that made him at the time the highest-paid corner in NFL history.
Linebacker Shaq Thompson is the only current member of the Panthers defense who played with Norman in 2015, so he knows what Norman can bring.
"It's good to have Josh back,'' Thompson said. "It's good to have some veteran presence back there as well. Everybody knows Josh was a playmaker when he was here. He made big-time plays for us, big-time hits.
"It was good to see him when he came in. Just happy he's here.''
Horn broke his wrist in the fourth quarter of Sundays' 37-23 victory over the Detroit Lions. He leads Carolina with three interceptions, and he likely would have matched up this Sunday with Bucs receiver Mike Evans, who leads the team in receptions with 51.
Norman (6 feet, 200 pounds) has matched up well with Evans in the past. But it's the intangibles the player from South Carolina brings that Wilks likes the most for his young secondary.
"He's going to be a great example for some of these young guys,'' Wilks said. "You mentioned some that we had in the past, Peanut Tillman and Roman Harper, he fits right into that mold.''