It may have only been his second week of OTAs, but cornerback Josh Norman is already impressing coaches with his work ethic and making a difference on the field.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry didn't even need to see cornerback Josh Norman lift weights or run through drills to know what his work ethic would be like as a member of the Redskins.
When Norman left the facility on a Friday night in April after signing a contract with Washington, Barry asked when his newest asset might return to Redskins Park to continue with offseason workouts. According to Barry, Norman looked at him funny, as though the question were silly, and asserted he would return Sunday night and be in the gym at 8 a.m. on Monday.
"That, to me, said a lot," Barry said.
"We obviously see all of the clips on NFL Network and the plays that he makes on the field, but his true character is his work ethic, his passion, and he wants to be great and he wants to make his teammates around him great," Barry added. "I think that is a huge attribute that he has that a lot of people don't see."
The same thing can be said by his head coach Jay Gruden, who was also pleasantly surprised by the cornerback's dedication in all areas of the facility.
"You never know what type of worker they are until they actually get in your building and that has been the most impressive," Gruden said. "He's got the skill set; he has already proven that. He is a Pro Bowl corner and almost Defensive Player of the Year and all that good stuff. You know about his game day ability, but what you don't know about is how he is with the other players and in the meeting room and on the practice field.
"So far everything has been outstanding and I have been thrilled to see him work when the ball is not on his side and he is not in the meeting room and all that. He has been a pleasure to be around and he is going to help us out a lot, no question."
Norman's dedication and work ethic remain strong considering he's facing even more pressure to perform and live up to the lucrative contract he signed. That has its obstacles with a new team – learning a new playbook and determining his role with new defenders around him – but Norman embraces those kinds of challenges.
His muscle memory and natural instincts help alleviate some of the burdens on the field during this process, and Norman is still adjusting to his new place of residence, which, helpfully, reminds him of his home in Greenwood, S.C.
"You're in a hotel every day," he said. "But it's fine with me, I'm cool, trust me, I've been in worse, but this is great for me, I found a place out here, I'm getting accustomed to it, and just growing with the teammates I have here and getting to know guys. They befriend me and I befriend them and come out here and play on this football field, and build that team camaraderie, there's nothing like it I think."
In just two weeks of OTAs, Norman's presence on the field has already been felt in a variety of ways. Naturally, the receiving core, already one of the best in the league, stands to only get better as they face off against him. And while no contact is allowed right now, Gruden can't wait to see the competition at training camp.
"It's great," Gruden said. "We can't really do a lot of competitive one-on-one things right now, but it's going to be great. It's going to be a fun training camp, I'll tell you that."
Norman's skillset is also helping other parts of the defense. Defensive end Stephen Paea admitted he can already feel the difference in his pass rushing with Norman, and his "99 ratings on Madden," behind him in the secondary. Defensive end Ricky Jean Francois can feel the difference, too.
"That one more extra second, or two, or hesitation of the quarterback, that's helping us a lot. We're getting there," Jean Francois said.
"That's how the defense has got to work. They [the secondary] hold them for one to two seconds, we get the sack. We get pressure on them, quarterback throws the ball away… we're going pick six. All those turnovers last year we didn't turn into touchdowns. I believe this year [they're] going to start turning into sixes real quick."
Like any player adjusting to a new team, Norman is taking each day as another opportunity to learn and isn't obsessing over some early mistakes.
Those will, and should, happen during OTAs. He's still getting a feel for the Redskins, and the Redskins are still getting a feel for him. In the meantime, he's just trying to catch up, and working hard at it.
"I got in the film room after the first day and kind of watched some tape and understanding what I was facing," Norman said. "The next day I came back out here and was better. And ever since then I've been taking off on these combinations that they're running, because I kind of got that muscle memory, of what I know and I see, I kind of memorize, and put it into effect out here and just knowing that I think that's gonna help me progress my game even more."