Dolphin RB Mark Walton and former UM teammate of Kendrick Norton talks about Norton being at practice
Adolphus Washington was just going through an individual defensive line drill about 30 minutes into a Miami Dolphins practice Monday when he spotted a familiar face out of the corner of his eye. The sight distracted the defensive tackle ever so briefly: Kendrick Norton, who spent about seven months with the Dolphins before being waived late last month, was making his first appearance at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility since an Independence Day car accident forced his left arm to be amputated on the scene.
“I was in the middle of doing a drill and I seen him out the corner of my eye and the coach literally cussed me out,” Washington said, “but I’m like, ‘It’s him right there!’”
Norton, whom Miami signed off the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad late in the fall, surprised his former teammates in Davie to kick off the second full week of training camp. He didn’t make any formal address to his teammates before practice, but coach Brian Flores did have the team huddle up around the former defensive tackle about midway through practice to have the team break around him.
Aside from the teal wrap covering his amputated left arm, Norton didn’t seem any different to his teammates than they would have expected if he was just dealing with a temporary injury. He immediately made his way over to the defensive line drills to reunite with his former teammates.
While Norton was still at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the defensive linemen all made a point to go visit with him and defensive tackle Akeem Spence said he still texts with Norton regularly. He brought the same sort of positive energy the Dolphins had become used to from him.
“When Big K comes over, I start laughing. I said, ‘That’s Big K!’” defensive tackle Davon Godcheaux said. “Big K came over to D-line individuals, started laughing with us, lifted us up during individuals, but it’s always nice to have that guy coming with positive energy. When he was on the field with us, he was always a positive guy.”
Norton, who attended Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville and starred for the Miami Hurricanes before the Panthers picked him in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, was expected to compete for a roster spot this summer before his truck crashed into a barrier and flipped early on the morning of the Fourth of July. Norton’s arm was amputated on the scene as two off-duty officers and an emergency medical technician performed aid until paramedics arrived. Norton spent about two weeks in the hospital. The Dolphins waived him a few days after he was released, but will pay him his full salary this season.
“It’s good to see him in good spirits. Even when he left the hospital, he was in good spirits,” said running back Mark Walton, who played with Norton for three seasons with the Hurricanes. “It’s a tough thing for him to come out here. It’s something that was just taken away from him in an accident. To see him out here still talking to the guys, you get a lot of guys who go through the motions when they get these type of injuries — career-ending injuries — so you come out here and you see the type of guy he is, first-class guy. He still cares about everybody. He still cares about the organization.”
Norton’s presence was lingering around the Dolphins even before he made his appearance Monday. Flores went to visit Norton every day he was in the hospital and teammates constantly made appearances, too.
Godchaux has tried to make Norton’s presence part of his message to the entire defensive line. The team will play with Norton on their mind this season. Monday served as a reminder for what they’re missing.
“I tell the guys I try to go out there and play with a chip on my shoulder for him, a guy who got his game taken away from him in a car accident, can’t play this game no more,” Godchaux said, “so each and every day I go out there and try to have a chip on my shoulder for him.”