Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Josh Norman Will Prove Haters Wrong

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 27, 2016

Washington Redskins' cornerback Josh Norman (24) leaves the football field after the first day of the NFL football teams minicamp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Associated Press

Training camps are starting to open, and change is running rampant through the league.

   

1. Josh Norman Is Ready to Prove People Wrong

The most motivated man in the NFL is on the phone. He's fired up. Borderline angry. It's Josh Norman. 

"People are always underestimating me," Norman said in an interview with B/R. "I think it happened when I came into the NFL. I think it happened every game I've played. Guys think they can beat me or I'm not that fast or I can't really cover. They miss a lot until the game starts."

What do they miss?

"I think it falls under the category of 'You don't know what you don't know,'" he said. "I think fans and even some players see me on TV or film but don't get all that I do. They don't see the time that I put in. They don't see the film study or the teamwork. But once that game starts, then they know."

Did your old team underestimate you, he is asked, in letting you go to free agency, where you signed with Washington?

"You'll have to ask them," he said, "but obviously there's some of that."

What about Odell Beckham Jr., who said in an interview with GQ Magazine that Norman joined Beckham in the NFC East in a bid to stay relevant?

"I guess you'd have to say that he underestimates me, too," said Norman, who spoke to me as part of his promotion of Discover Boating.

This will sound cliche, and it is, but it's accurate: Norman is on a mission to prove people wrong. I think he'll succeed in a big way, too.

Underestimate him at your own peril.

Norman is the best corner in football, at least to my way of thinking. Others, apparently, feel differently. Since Norman signed his five-year, $75 million contract, with $50 million guaranteed, there has been a quiet, and sometimes not-so-quiet, attempt to both discredit him and the Washington team that signed him.

This week, an AFC West general manager told me the contract was "one of the dumbest signings in recent history because the age of the cover corner is dead."

Now that the rules of the sport favor offenses so heavily, it is true that, in some ways, those rules can negate average or even good corners. But they can't overwhelm great corners, and that's what Norman is.

Washington also needed a counteragent to Beckham. No one can completely stop Beckham—he's too good. But what Norman can do is slow him down, and keep him from having those explosive days when he's constantly making huge plays and embarrassing defenses.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants in action against Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers on December 20, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Panthers defeated
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Norman also brings a level of toughness to the Washington defense. One of the best parts of his game is his mentality. He's never intimidated, and when he gets beat, he lines right back up, ready for the next play. Norman's style is reminiscent of the old Oakland Raiders corners from the 1970s—one of the greatest compliments a corner can get.

When I asked Norman about the belief that cover corners are going the way of VCRs, he laughed.

"The era of the cover corner is still in full effect," he said. "I cover guys all over the field. The few of us that do that still have a great impact on the game.

"Whenever a receiver that is playing hot runs into guys like me, they cool off. That's not a coincidence. That's what a cover corner does. We're still out there."

Next season, Norman, to borrow a phrase from the great Johnny Manziel, is going to wreck this league.

"If anyone has any doubts about me," Norman said, "I'll answer them once the season starts."

    

2. End of a Great Era

ESPN commentator Tom Jackson  on Monday Night Football Nov. 13, 2006 as the Carolina Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  in Charlotte.  The Panthers won 24 - 10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

If Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News is right, and Tom Jackson won't be returning to ESPN, it represents the end of one of the great analyst runs in the history of sports television.

Jackson has been with ESPN for almost three decades. Many good analysts have come and gone through ESPN—including one of my favorites, Cris Carter—but Jackson was as good as any of them. He was a rare combination of evenness but also strong opinion. His hot takes were rare, and he was always someone who could be counted on to put things in proper perspective.

He was a guy whom I turned on the television for, in an era when so many analysts make you turn the television off. Or change the channel to Star Trek.

      

3. Remembering Dennis Green

7 Oct 2001: Head coach Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings calls plays as his team is defeated by the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 28-15. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/ALLSPORT
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Not long after the Vikings drafted Randy Moss in 1998, his head coach, Dennis Green, was on the phone with me, making a promise: Randy Moss is going to change the wide receiver position.

Many people thought Moss would be good in the NFL, even great. Green was the only person I heard who said Moss would re-engineer the position, and he was right. Jerry Rice may be the best receiver of all time, but Moss is the most explosive. If you think Beckham or Julio Jones can light things up, no one—and I mean no one—was as explosive in their prime as Moss. He's on a singular level when it comes to that.

And it was Green who saw that before others. Dead at the age of 67 last week, Green was as good of a talent evaluator as ever lived, and he was as good at fitting that talent in a cohesive system as almost anyone.

When Green coached the Vikings, we talked every week, at least. When I went to Vikings games or training camp, we'd talk for an hour. He was a brilliant man, loved by players and respected by coaches. The NFL will miss him.

    

4. Tom Brady, Patriots Need to Tread Carefully

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The NFL says that part of Tom Brady's suspension means he cannot have any contact with the team. None. Zero. They can't even play catch in Brady's big backyard.

Two team executives, one from the AFC and the other from the NFC, said teams will be watching closely to try to, in the words of the AFC executive, "catch Brady or the Patriots trying to cheat the suspension."

The Patriots know this; so don't expect them to try to circumvent the suspension in any way. The AFC source said he would not be surprised if a team, or even the NFL, had someone watching Brady's house to see if Patriots teammates show up there. Seriously, that's what he said.

It's hard to believe a team or the league would do that, but these are weird times in the NFL.

    

5. New Deal for Drew Brees Not in Sight

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a play during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Saints are playing the waiting game with their quarterback because they can. There's no reason, for now, to get Drew Brees a new deal. He's in the last year of his contract, and he can't go anywhere unless New Orleans trades him—and it won't. The Saints want Brees to retire with the team, and he almost surely will. And while a long-term contract is likely, for the moment the Saints aren't in a hurry.

    

6. Scout's Take on Greg Hardy

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27: Greg Hardy #76 of the Dallas Cowboys warms up before the start of their game against the Buffalo Bills during NFL game action at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowsk
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Jaguars worked out alleged domestic abuser Greg Hardy. The fact a team even worked out Hardy did not go over well with some team personnel men with whom I spoke. There's a distinct feeling around the league that few people want Hardy back in football. You could say this scout is one of them:

"He is a woman-beating dirtbag, and any team that signs him is equally dirtbag-ish. You sign him, you are embracing woman-beating. Shame on any team that signs him."

    

7. Amari Cooper May Rise, but Will the Raiders Fall?

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Two teams that will win at least 10 games next season: the Raiders and Jaguars. I said it.

One of the reasons I'm high on the Raiders is, of course, Amari Cooper. My belief is he continues to grow, and after I read this story, that belief was only reaffirmed. To put it simply, he seems to get it.

It is true, however, that I continue to hear from people in the sport that they believe the Raiders offense will take one step back before it takes many steps forward. These skeptics believe the Raiders' progression has been so rapid that it can't continue at this pace and there will be an inevitable bump in the road. And this year seems as logical as any for Oakland to hit that bump before growing into a consistent contender.

    

8. People Are Still Doing This?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 10:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at TCFBank Stadium on January 10, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I never understood the bashing of Teddy Bridgewater when he came out of college, and I get it even less now. It makes no sense. I've heard from Vikings players who rave about him. His coaches love him. He works hard, is smart and continues to show a great deal of promise. Hating Teddy Bridgewater is like hating Captain Kirk. It's un-American.

    

9. If This Is Aldon Smith, He Is a Moron

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 8:  Linebacker Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders looks on from the field before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 8, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Raiders 38-35.
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

I watched all of Aldon Smith's Periscope videos. For the sake of being fair and journalistic, I'm going to say this is allegedly him. Can't say for certain it's him.

But boy, does it seem like him. Boy, does it seem 100 percent like him. Maybe 110 percent.

Smith has been in a lot of trouble recently, including multiple arrests for driving under the influence and a pending hit-and-run charge, among other things. But strictly in terms of football, he is serving a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. That means the NFL is testing Smith regularly.

More than that, if you are a player trying to get back into the league, you have to know a video of you allegedly (back to that word again) smoking weed won't help your case. At all.

The woman on the video says to Alleged Aldon it's stupid to put what they were doing on Periscope. She was right. He should have listened to her. She seems to understand how the internet works.

The NFL's testing protocol for marijuana is easy to beat if you're not in the program. If you're in it, it's incredibly hard to beat. Meaning, it is highly likely that Alleged Aldon will get busted.

Smith tweeted Monday that it wasn't him. If that wasn't him, it was the best impersonator of all time. He should have just said the Russians hacked him. I'd believe that.

I don't think we'll see Smith in the NFL for a long time, if ever again.

    

10. Why Jim Harbaugh Is Awesome

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 01: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on prior to the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 1, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I'm just going to leave this right here. Jim Harbaugh continues to be the most interesting (and fun) college coach in America. I only wish he was like this when in the NFL.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.

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