ASHBURN, Va. -- The critics point to the defense he left, the one that helped the Carolina Panthers reach the Super Bowl. They say cornerback Josh Norman benefited from the pass rush and talent around him. The Washington Redskins, and any other supporter, point to Norman himself as the reason for his success.
It’s why Washington handed him a contract worth $15 million a year. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry witnessed his work ethic just hours after the Redskins signed Norman in April. As Norman was getting ready to leave Redskins Park late that Friday night, Barry asked when he would see him again.
"He looked at me literally like I was crazy. He was like, 'What are you talking about? I will be back Sunday night, and I will be in the building at 8 Monday morning to work,'" Barry said. "That to me said a lot. He wasn’t one of those guys that said, 'Hey, I’ll get there when OTAs start.' He was literally there 48 hours later and in the building at 8 in the morning with his new teammates working."
For the Redskins, Norman's showing up during the early part of offseason workouts -- right after he’d been signed -- spoke volumes.
"We obviously see all of the clips on NFL Network and the plays that he makes on the field," Barry said, "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. I think that is a huge attribute that he has that a lot of people don’t see."
Norman is coming off a terrific season in which he was named first-team All-Pro and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. He was in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors as well after intercepting four passes and returning two for scores.
After the Redskins signed Norman, some wondered whether he was more the product of a great defensive front. Norman won’t dispute that Carolina’s pass rush was excellent. And some wondered whether Norman’s game would slip without it.
"Those guys are great, man; they are a great pass rush," he said. "Who’s going to say they’re not? You got Star [Lotulelei], KK [Kawann Short]. My goodness, those interior guys, I love them. My goodness, those interior guys, I love them. They’re my guys. Charles [Johnson] and Kony [Ealy]. But I’m in Washington, D.C., with the Redskins, and so do we have good pass-rushers on the edge. Look at [Ryan] Kerrigan. We’re going to get big Junior Galette back. Those are motors on the edge. Big-time motors.
"I’m so excited to be here. It’s not that I came from a great defensive line that made me who I am. I am because I’m the guy you see on the field every week trying to be the best and better in my craft, and I got edge rushers like that out here. We’ll see."
Norman said he's continuing to get more comfortable in the Redskins' defense. One of his best traits has been the ability to read routes and quarterbacks, but in the Redskins’ early spring practices, Norman wasn’t as sharp with that skill because he wasn’t as familiar with Washington’s routes. He also said that after watching film, the routes in the NFC East are different from those he saw in the NFC South.
But after the first day of practice, Norman said he watched film of practice and started to figure things out.
"I come out here every day and try to put my hard hat on and go to work," Norman said. "Blue-collar as they come."
Although Norman is an expensive hard hat, his point stands -- the Redskins cite his work ethic when asked what they've learned about their new signing.
"You never know what type of worker they are until they actually get in your building, and that has been the most impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "He’s got the skill set; he has already proven that. 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."