- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

ASHBURN — It has been five years since Josh Norman had to get to know an entire organization, from his teammates to his coaches and everybody in between who helped manage day-to-day activities while he was with the Carolina Panthers.

After he was drafted by the Panthers in the fifth round in 2012 after a heralded career as a walk-on at Coastal Carolina, Norman was less than a three-hour drive from his Greenwood, South Carolina home, where he grew up with his four brothers.

Norman is still trying to grasp his surroundings as he settles in with the Washington Redskins after signing a five-year, $75 million contract in April. The Panthers shrewdly removed the franchise tag they had placed on the star cornerback, and since he has signed with the Redskins, his world has felt both exciting and been flipped upside down at the same time.

“The people is a unique aspect of it,” Norman said of his transition. “Your everyday routine, the normal … you’ve got to be here, this spot, you know these people, this place. You come here, put your stuff down there. Growing within the team, the teammates that I have here and getting to know guys. They befriend me, I befriend them and come out here and play on this football field and build that team camaraderie. It’s taken some time because you have those ties. It’s just like anything, I’m human. At the same time, I’m here and I love this area.”

In a way, Ashburn reminds Norman of Greenwood, a small country town with a population of less than 25,000. “It’s peaceful here,” Norman said. He’s living in a hotel until a more permanent residence, one 10 minutes from Redskins Park, is ready. Norman still has houses in Charlotte, where most of his belongings are, too.

“Well, I forgot everything,” Norman said. “I just got on the plane, just said, ‘Screw it, man. I’ll figure it out when it’s all settled down and the smoke has cleared.’ I’ll figure it out then.”

SEE ALSO: Redskins training camp scheduled to begin July 28 in Richmond

For now, Norman spends most of his time getting acclimated with his teammates and learning defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s system. During the Redskins‘ organized team activities on Wednesday, Norman looked comfortable relying on his instincts. He honed in on wide receivers’ patterns, picking up on certain tendencies in order to position himself to make a play.

“That first day it was kind of a little rusty because knowing different combinations, they like to be a checkdown team, OK cool, knowing that and understanding the leverage I should have,” Norman said. “Down in the the film room after the first day, I watched some tape, the second day I came out here it’s been much better. Ever since then, I’ve been taking off on these combinations they’ve been running because I’ve got this muscle memory of what I know and I see. I kind of memorize and put it into effect. Knowing that will help me progress my game.”

Barry and the Redskins knew what type of caliber player they were getting in Norman when they signed the cornerback — the type of player that can change the face of a defense upon his arrival.

What Barry didn’t know was the type of work ethic Norman would bring to the team, which was something he noticed immediately after Norman signed on April 22.

“The story I always tell people is that we walked out of the building with Josh and his family and all of us at about 10:30 on that Friday night, he was going back to the airport to fly back home and I was like, ‘OK bro, when do you think you’re going to make it back?’” Barry said. “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 o’clock Monday morning to work.’

“So, 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 with [strength and conditioning coach Mike] Clark. 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. I think that is a huge attribute that he has that a lot of people don’t see.”

Norman has only been with the Redskins for a little over a month. At times, his life still feel like it’s a bit in disarray and he’s OK with that. He’s embracing the change both on and off the field and is certain he’ll settle in soon, even if he’s only been to downtown Washington once since he signed.

“I’m still adjusting in areas I think I’d already be adjusted in,” Norman said. “It’s like being taken out of night and put somewhere else and trying to figure your way out. At the same time, it’s been cool.”

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