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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

‘I just go after the ball’: Josh Norman making an impact on the 49ers defense

Nov 21, 2021 at 4:08 PM--

It wasn't too long ago that several fans called for the San Francisco 49ers to part ways with Josh Norman. The veteran cornerback's exchange with Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury led to a costly penalty in an embarrassing Niners loss.

On Sunday, Norman forced a fumble in the 49ers' dominating 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Linebacker Fred Warner recovered the loose football.

The forced fumble was Norman's sixth of the season — a career-high mark that ranks as the second-most in a single season in franchise history, bested only by defensive lineman Roy Barker's eight in 1996.

"He's done it his whole career," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the game. "Everyone knows Josh has played at a high level. I think he had close to an MVP year back when he was with Carolina, so he's been one of the better corners in this league for a while.

"Yes, he's towards the end where it changed a little bit, but the guy still plays the same way. He is a physical guy who loves playing football. He gives it everything he has. He's the best I've seen at going for the ball with the Peanut Punch and everything. He gets us in practice all the time.

"He's gotten everyone in the league for a long time, and it's cool. When he gets his opportunities and he's by the ball, he gets that ball out a very high percentage of the time. I'm glad guys were running to it. ... It was huge momentum for us to get on that ball."

Norman knows that if he keeps at it, eventually, he'll be in a position to make a big play for his team.

"If I get 60 [opportunities] a game, somebody gonna be slipping," Norman shared. "And so, for me, I just look at it like I just go after the ball ... somebody's going to come up slipping sooner or later."

The cornerback says he feels like he perfected his punch toward the end of last year.

"As long as you're playing this game, you keep learning," Norman added. "More and more comes to you. I thought it's just something that I had in my tool belt that I could just use it any given moment, if a situation occurs. But it seems to be one of the strengths now."

49ers defenders know that a fumble is always a possibility whenever Norman is in the vicinity.

"He's been doing that all season," Warner said. "It's crazy to watch. In that play, I was running to the ball, and I didn't know what happened. That ball comes out, and you automatically think, Josh, he must have been around somewhere."

What about the heated exchange with Kingsbury against the Cardinals that appeared to lack good judgment by the veteran corner? Shanahan never considered getting rid of Norman because of the incident.

The officials tossed a taunting penalty Norman's way. The penalty kept the Cardinals' drive alive and eventually extended the division rival's lead. Norman was replaced by Dre Kirkpatrick and did not return to the game.

"I talked to him the next day about it," Shanahan explained. "He knows what he did wrong on it. That was his first one here. I think that was the first one on our team, which we don't want any, and that is a big deal. But I also wasn't going to be overdramatic and make an example of someone who had done it for the first time."

Kirk Larrabee contributed to this article.

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