No Redskins player knows new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera better than cornerback Josh Norman.
The veteran spent the first four seasons of his NFL career in Carolina under Rivera's leadership, where Norman went from a fifth-round selection to an All-Pro cornerback. His time in Carolina ended when the team initially placed the franchise tag on Norman following the 2015 season, but quickly removed it after the two sides were unable to complete a long-term deal. Norman became a free agent, signed a lucrative five-year deal in Washington.
Now, four years later, Norman's future in Washington is in limbo. No. 24 spent the final six weeks of the season on the sidelines, watching players the Redskins signed just days prior play over him. He has one year and $15 million left on the five-year deal he signed but would count as just a $3 million cap hit if released.
"Have I been told that? Not that I know of. Not to my knowledge," Norman said Monday when asked if he's played his last game in Washington. "I think that everybody else has been speculating that for some odd reason. I don’t know why. I got another year left on my deal. What I know, I’m still here. Until something else changes, I guess we’ll still be here."
But in the NFL, things change fast. Just a couple months ago, thinking Rivera would be the head coach of the Redskins seemed unthinkable. Norman was all but gone. But with Rivera in town, there's a chance Norman could return, whether that be at a reduced rate or not.
When asked what culture change Rivera would to the Redskins, Norman kept it blunt.
"Everything as you see it today would be different," he said. "I’ll say that."
When asked to expand on that answer, Norman endorsed Rivera strongly. His passion and respect for his first NFL coach seemed as strong as ever, despite not playing for him in four seasons.
"He gets the best out of players. Simple as that. There’s no cut-and-dry short answer other than what I just gave you," Norman said. "He gets the best out of players. And not just players, but men. He builds men and guys — and also builds character, and sets them up not just for football, but sets (them up) in life.
"I think that’s the first and foremost thing you want to see in anybody, that they actually care about you instead of the game itself," he continued. "That’s what builds that family and that bond where guys can’t break that.”
Once officially named head coach, Rivera has a lot to figure out. He has to determine who his defensive coordinator will be and whether to retain young offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. There are several veterans that Washington can release this offseason to clear up a significant amount of cap room, with Norman being one of them.
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