CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said it almost felt like he was "stabbed in the back'' when Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman rescinded Norman's franchise tag in April.
Norman initially wouldn't even use Gettleman's name -- referring to him as "whatchacallit'' -- during a Thursday conference call with media in Charlotte, North Carolina, to discuss Monday night's game between the Panthers and Redskins at FedEx Field.
"When that situation came up, it was totally out of left field,'' said Norman, who played for the Panthers from 2012-2015. "It just went downhill from there. It almost felt like I was stabbed in the back in a way.
"At the same time, I'm not saying he probably meant to do that in that way. It was just probably the business aspect of it, and the money factor, and what he believed, and how he learned how to do things.''
Norman and his agent, Mike George, were asking in the range of $14 million to $15 million per season in a long-term deal with the Panthers. On the advice of his agent, Norman hadn't signed the franchise offer sheet and did not report for the start of offseason workouts because that was his only leverage.
After rescinding the tag, Gettleman said it was because he didn't see a long-term deal being reached, and he felt he could use the $13.95 million Norman was scheduled to receive with the tag on other moves.
"He ain't been nothing but nice to me until that came about,'' Norman said. "I was like, 'Wow, smile on your face and go behind your back and do something ... like that, it's kind of like, 'Geez. That's tough.'''
Norman said Thursday he realized he wasn't a part of Carolina's core plans "when whatchacallit said it,'' referring to Gettleman's news conference to talk about the decision.
"I'm not beating a dead horse by saying this stuff,'' said Norman, a fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2012, the year before Gettleman arrived. "He didn't draft me. He didn't bring me in. Marty Hurney did. So at the end of the day, I had no ties to that. I understand that, and I get it. The personality of how I am probably don't suit some people in that atmosphere.
"At the end of the day, it seems as if I wasn't worthy enough to be there. I got fired. I'm kind of taking it like that.''
Norman described the atmosphere at Carolina as "buttoned-up'' and himself as more of a free spirit. He doesn't know whether that played into Gettleman's decision.
"I'm freeborn. I'm free spirit,'' Norman said. "If you guys tell everybody in a group to go right, I'm going left. That's just me. I'm not going to shy away from anything. I'm going to be real about it, and I'm going to be honest, whether you like it or not. I don't know how much they really care for that.''
Norman doesn't hold the type of animosity toward Carolina that Steve Smith expressed when he was released following the 2013 season. Smith promised "blood and guts'' the first time he met the Panthers as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
But Norman did have a friendly reminder for those who thought the Panthers wouldn't miss him.
"It looks like we're going to the playoffs, and I don't know if anybody else is,'' Norman told ESPN in a separate interview. "It looks like we've got a good shot more than they do.''
The Panthers (5-8) have a 1 percent chance to make the playoffs and would be eliminated entirely if Atlanta or Tampa Bay win Sunday. The Redskins (7-5-1) are a half-game out of the final wild-card spot in the NFC with three games remaining.
"I was a little salty about it,'' Norman, who was born and raised in the Carolinas, said of the Panthers' decision to move on from him. "Of course, if you've been somewhere all of your life, 28 years almost going on 29, it's like, 'What the heck?' You didn't expect that to happen.
"But it did, and things worked out for the best.''