Ken Norton is back, and he's fired up: 'You gotta lead 'em into battle!'

RENTON, Wash. – Sure, the Seattle Seahawks lost quite a few familiar faces during the offseason.

But they did bring back a couple of old favorites in key roles: Ken Norton Jr., for one.

Norton, the Seahawks’ linebackers coach from 2010-2014, is back as defensive coordinator after spending time with the Oakland Raiders.

“I think when you leave Seattle, or you work here for a while, it always stays in your heart,” Norton said during an exclusive interview with the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX. “So I was gone, but I never really left cause my heart was still here. But at the same time, I don’t think you really think about coming back. You’re just really looking forward, and to the present time and really learning and growing.”

Norton, who was an All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champ during his playing days with the Cowboys and 49ers, is replacing Kris Richard on a defense that lost the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

“It’s not different, and it is different,” Norton said. “It’s not different because I’m able to see you, the facilities are still the same. Then you come back into the group of defense and you’ve got a lot of new faces, lot of different names, lot of different guys are not here that you kind of helped grow before. Then you have a lot of new, young players, really eager and ready for their turn right now.

“So, it’s fun to see the hunger, the excitement, the new faces, the guys really ready to step up and become namesake players for themselves.”

Norton was popular with the linebackers during his last go-round in Seattle – Bobby Wagner said “excitement and joy immediately raced through my heart” when he learned Norton was coming back – and it’s not much of a challenge to see why.

“Oh, I’m on the field!” Norton said. “The generals, you gotta lead ‘em into battle. You can’t be up (in the booth), and be down there saying ‘let’s go guys.’ I’m one of those guys that’s in people’s face. They gotta feel my juice and energy. If they mess up, I gotta look ‘em in the eye and say ‘that’s unacceptable – now take your butt out there and do it better.’ You can’t do that from upstairs, or on the phone.

“They gotta look at you and feel you. I’ll let you know when you’re unacceptable!”

Norton’s decision to come back to Seattle was surprising because the announcement came days after the San Francisco 49ers announced he was heading across the bay to be their defensive coordinator.

So, what exactly happened there?

“That’s a long story and I’ll try to keep it as short as possible,” he said. “I had a job opportunity in San Francisco, but we were still negotiating and deciding what my title would be. We hadn’t actually finalized the deal before they had announced it, so it wasn’t official before they announced it, so we were able to continue negotiating here. We’d all been in negotiation – San Francisco, myself and Seattle. But San Francisco had announced something that wasn’t quite official.

“What was official to the announcement wasn’t officially official.”

Norton was in Seattle when the Legion of Boom was first formed, so he’s in as good a position as anybody to vote on whether the mostly new secondary gets to keep the name.

“Just reload it,” Norton said. “Just reload ‘em, man. The guys are gonna make a lot of good plays, really excited about the group.”