But first Horn has to get completely healthy.
The No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft said he is still feeling the aftereffects of surgery for broken bones in his right foot following a freakish Week 3 injury against the Houston Texans last season.
The non-contact accident occurred when Horn kicked backwards on the far side of the pitch and felt a sharp pain in the foot, causing him to fall to the ground and immediately start calling for a trainer’s help.
A day later, Horn was informed that his season was probably over.
He missed the last 14 games, ending a promising start to his NFL career.
“When it happened, I first hoped it was something small,” Horn said. “When I got the news, I was frustrated and angry. But after that I just tried to work on getting better every day and work my way back on the field.”
Horn competed in the team’s OTAs and minicamp earlier this season, so when he was added to the PUP (physically unable to perform) list at the start of training camp with pain in that same right foot, he raised some eyebrows. on.
But Horn said doctors and others who have suffered similar injuries have told him it’s normal if he returns from a broken foot.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Horn missed the first week of training camp, but returned Monday to practice on a limited basis. The Panthers work him into the mix slowly, being careful not to put too much strain on his foot as they try to ramp up his workload.
That has put Horn back into an all-too-familiar role of watching rather than playing.
But he said the only thing he learned from last season is patience and winning the mental battle in his head.
“I want to be ready for week 1 – when it counts,” said Horn.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Horn has already proven to him that he can be a “special player” in the NFL given his rare combination of speed, strength and athleticism, and he knows the team can’t afford him again. to lose.
“Jaycee was physically present last year, explosive, aggressive and didn’t back down from anyone,” said Rhule. “We missed him when he was gone.”
Horn is scheduled to start with Donte Jackson in year two. When the Panthers move to three cornerback sets, Rhule said Horn will move to the nickel spot, while CJ Henderson, another former top-10 NFL draft pick, will take the outside.
If all three cornerbacks are healthy and Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods are safe, the Panthers think they have one of the best defensive backfields in the league. Carolina gave up the second fewest yards in the league in 2021.
Hoorn said the sky is the limit.
“The raw talent we have. We have athletics. We have two of the fastest corners in the competition in Donte and CJ and I’m not slow for a big boy myself,” said Horn. “And we all compete hard. If we get beat, we get up right away and challenge at the next game.”
Entering back-to-back seasons with five wins, the Panthers are still seen as a team vying for a championship.
But if Horn gets his way, one day the confetti will fall.
“Win,” said Horn of his primary goal. “I feel the individual goals come when you play well. I want us to play well as a defense and help this team win football matches.”
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