Cornerback Josh Norman will get his first opportunity to play against the Carolina Panthers with Monday's game at FedExField, and he has the full support of his teammates in advance of the emotional game.
Last year when the Redskins and Panthers met, a certain corner, wearing number 24, was playing for the team in blue and white. But this weekend, when the two teams face off once again, this time on "Monday Night Football," Josh Norman will dress in Burgundy & Gold.
The fact that Norman will be facing his former team for the first time is not something that has been ignored. In fact, with the Panthers' chances of making the playoffs almost nonexistent, the star corner has been what almost all the discussion has centered around.
And as his current teammates have watched the fascination surrounding him blossom, they understand what this game will mean to him and the energy that he always brings to gamedays.
"You know I'm pretty sure any time you go back to your former team it's a little extra fire burning there," Trent Williams, who has been with the Redskins his entire career, said. "I'm sure it's huge for him."
This game is certainly a big matchup in some ways as the Redskins make a push to ensure they continue their quest for a playoff spot.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins even realized that this game could have big implications all the way back during the offseason and made a point of discussing the Panthers with Norman before the hecticness of the season began.
"It really goes back to the spring. I knew that when we got to this point there isn't much time to pull him away from his preparation and to take that time," Cousins said. "That goes back to April or May, cornering him and saying, 'Hey, can you talk to me about the defense and I'll take some notes and get some thoughts on Carolina's defense so that come the week of the game, it's already there?' So we talked a little bit about the coverages and things, but at the end of the day, it's about executing and being on top of our stuff and just reacting to how they play it."
While it may seem a bit unconventional for a quarterback to discuss a defense like that, Cousins is always looking for ways to gather more information or be more knowledgeable about the team that he is about to face. Cousins pointed out that having Norman on his side is actually a huge help and a player that he is happy he can count amongst his teammates, emotions and all.
"What I love about Josh – and when I trained with him before the NFL Draft back in 2012, I got a feel for it long before he ever came here – but what I've always loved about him is that he's a worker," Cousins said. "There's just a… I know it may not come across in the media with the answers or the way he answers questions, but he's just a quiet, humble leader on this team who goes about his business. You see him stay after practice. Winning matters to him. He's been a part of a winning team and he knows what that looks like.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"So when you have a veteran player like that who a lot of young players are looking to as an example – and the example he's setting is one of hard work, humility, just staying the course, caring about fundamentals, caring about details in the game plan, you see him make some very important plays in key moments of games. I just think that's a great thing for our culture and trying to go in that direction as an entire organization. I think getting some of your best players to be your best leaders can make a big difference. That's where I guess I'm most pleased with Josh on top of his ability. I saw that back when we were training for the draft when we would do one-on-ones and the way he would approach those and compete, try to really lock guys down. It was impressive back then."
It's clear that Norman's teammates this year have his back no matter what. But the energy or extra incentive that many people have been discussing may be a bit overblown, because Norman is someone who gives all of his energy for every game. No matter the opponent.
"You know, the good thing about Josh is it doesn't vary week-to-week, really. He gets up for everybody," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He gets up for whoever they line up against him. That's the beauty of him. That's why I think he's such a great player because he doesn't discriminate as far as him and his emotions and his level of intensity for game day. So I haven't had to talk to him because I know how he's going to be – the same as he is every week."