*The Redskins introduced cornerback Josh Norman at Redskins Park on Monday, and the All-Pro expressed his excitement to be part of a team he believes is on the rise. *
Once cornerback Josh Norman had all the information -- once he was flown in from Atlanta by private jet with his family, given a tour of Redskins Park, spoke with Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the front office and the team's coaches -- he looked around a board room table at his family and asked them if this was the place he should sign.
He had another offer from New Orleans to consider and wanted some counsel from his mother, father and his three brothers, all of whom had been with him though his crazy three-day journey. They each explained their feelings. Then he asked for a raise of hands as to whether he should become a Redskin, and his choice was made clear.
"I don't know what the President did, the Owner and the GM, but everybody raised their hand and I looked at it like, 'Well, here we go. This is done, sealed, signed and delivered me over,'" Norman said. "I loved it every step of the way. Every time I stepped in the building, it was like a family feel. It was welcoming, and their hospitality, it just sparked into my family and that's kind of how I got here. And I'm so blessed and fortunate enough to be a Washington Redskin."
Washington introduced Norman on Monday at Redskins Park to the media, and after signing a reported five-year, $75 million contract just three days earlier, the Pro Bowler said it was still surreal to be standing at the podium, dressed in burgundy in gold.
"It's kind of crazy," he said. "Now I'm sitting up here talking to you guys on another team, another colors. It's kind of still surreal, but I'm blessed. I'm very, very fortunate enough to be here with this magnitude of an organization. I can't say enough great things about them. The history here is 84-years-plus, so this is the golden age of football when you come down here to the NFC East. So I'm loving it right now."
General manager Scot McCloughan, who addressed the media earlier in the day, said the Panthers' decision on Wednesday to rescind their franchise tag on Norman was "very surprising." There had only been one All-Pro to become an unrestricted free agent the following year, and so he made sure to pounce.
McCloughan's staff had done their research and the Redskins' GM was familiar with Norman from college and since he started his ascent into the league. Norman, he believed, is in the prime of his career, and so it was prudent to take advantage of the rare opportunity.
"We got him here ASAP," McCloughan said. "We were the first team he visited. That's huge, because he's in the prime of his career. And I understand the contracts and all that, but that's part of the process. That's part of the business. But we're getting a really good football player that's going to help us win games.
"He brings a sort of chemistry and culture that I'm looking for and we're looking for," he added. "It's a position that's hard to find. Like I said, he's going to help us win games. And that's the bottom line – this organization is about making us better each day and he made us better."
At first glance, the contract and decision to bring a high-profile free agent to the Redskins went against the philosophy McCloughan had preached throughout the offseason. The Redskins, mostly quiet in signing players in 2016, would build through the draft, he said repeatedly, though the situation to add Norman, a 28-year-old coming off a career year, was a unique circumstance.
"Like I always say, free agency is a tool you use," McCloughan said. "It's something a lot of teams use more than others. I'm not a big proponent of it. I think you saw we signed a lot of our own guys back, signed a couple on the street. It's one of those things where this kid's coming off an All-Pro season, he's 28 and he matches all the characteristics we look for in a football player. So it's something you delve into. I wish I got him when he was 22, but that's not the case. But still, I feel he's in the prime of his career. But we're going to build through the draft no matter what."
Norman, who cited a biblical passage recounting Abraham and Isaac to analogize his abrupt departure from Carolina, knows that moving on from teammates and coaches will challenge him and throw him out of his comfort zone.
"But how can you grow if you're not in your comfort zone?" he asked. "I decided I was going to do something great and magnificent here, and bring everything that I have got and give it to these guys because this fan base is so strong. They're looking for a championship here and that's all I'm going to bring them, man – 110 percent, full-out effort."
The metaphors continued from Norman – he talked about carrying a big bag with him from Carolina, that it's still weighing him down and that he can't wait to drop it "in between them white lines" – and explained how he can't wait to pay the warm welcome and gratitude he received forward.
Some of that welcome was immediate, when Norman spoke at length before signing with Snyder, who told Norman to be himself and not to feel pressured into anything. Right now, there is much talk and anticipation about him facing off against Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant twice a year, players with whom he engaged in previous verbal and physical altercations.
"It's going to be fun," Norman said with a shrug. "I don't know, he's a competitor. I'm going to play, I'm going to give it everything I've got, just as well as he is, and any other competitor. I don't look at it no other way. Whatever happens that day, it will happen. I don't hold the future. But what I do know is I'm going to work my tail off until I see somebody that's different and that's all I'm bringing here, man, just work. Work, work, work. Dedication, determination to my craft."
What Norman is most excited about is his new team, both projecting its potential and forging relationships now to ensure a positive future.
"I'm super excited, you know, for what this team can do," he said. And that was a huge part of making my decision to come here because of that. And they have tasted [the playoffs] so I just want to go deeper into the playoffs and, hey, see what happens. That's what we did in Carolina and I know we can do it here. It's no difference. Pedigree and everything is the same and I'm just loving it up right now and can't help to be a part of something that's special and great because we on the rise man. Get on the train or not."