ASHBURN — Inside the Redskins big white practice bubble Saturday, the 62 players invited to rookie minicamp ran drills and received coaching. Not all among them were equal, and the most obvious status symbol was a jersey with the players’ name on it. The 37 tryout players, a few of whom might earn invitations to training camp, wore nameless jerseys, with one exception.
One defensive back scurried around in a red No. 24 jersey with the name “Norman” stitched on the back. Marrio Norman, the 30-year-old older brother of Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, was there for a tryout and had been given a piece of his $75 million sibling’s gear.
Since his last year at Coastal Carolina in 2008, Marrio Norman’s journey through training camps, the AFL and the CFL has been a less glamorous football career than his brother’s. Among the Norman boys, though, Marrio doesn’t live in Josh’s shadow.
“I am the older brother, so I always feel like I set the bar,” Norman said. “No matter where I was, I always made a lot of plays, a lot of interceptions, so I always gave him something to actually reach and obtain. Just my work ethic alone he tries to mimic.”
Norman is hoping that work ethic will help him earn a second opportunity to make an NFL roster.
He has played for the Georgia, Orlando and Cleveland in the Arena Football League. Norman was First Team All-Arena in 2014 when he broke up 19 passes and made 12 interceptions for the Cleveland Gladiators. He was signed by the Ravens in July of 2014, but didn’t make the fall roster.
Norman then moved north of the border to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, then back to Cleveland after he was released.
In their respective leagues, both Norman brothers became free agents after the 2015 season. Marrio Norman went unsigned. The Redskins made Josh the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL at the time. In Washington, Josh Norman started making the case for his brother to his new coaches.
“Josh has been touting him pretty hard for the last year and a half, so we wanted to give him a shot and give him a look,” coach Jay Gruden said.
Though Marrio is only 16 months older than Josh, the two overlapped for just a single season — 2008 — at Coastal Carolina. Josh spent a year living with Marrio before earning a spot on the team as a walk-on, and it was Marrio who kept on him about staying in shape and working on his game.
“I mean, he has enough people to tell him what he’s doing correct, right?” Norman said.
Going easy on each other would run counter to family tradition, too. Marrio and Josh have three other brothers, and grew up entertaining themselves with endless games of two-on-two. The losers were punished with pushups or situps. Their youngest brother would have to play long snapper for both teams.
“We would just go two-on-two all day in the front yard and when it got bedtime we would go in the house and play on our knees in the living room,” Marrio said. “Always competition.”
Marrio Norman shares Josh’s same puffy cheeks that move aside to make way for a big smile, usually after a bold proclamation. Just the thought of two Normans in the same locker room generated some chuckles.
“You would think one would be enough,” Gruden joked.
If Gruden winds up thinking that Marrio can contribute, though, the Redskins will take two. Though the team signed D.J. Swearinger in free agency and decided to move Su’a Cravens to safety during the offseason, none of the backups are roster locks, particularly at free safety. Marrio has never been able to stick with an NFL team, but his football journey illustrates persistence, at least.
“You know, he’s got a skill set,” Gruden said. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a good player. He’s played in a couple different leagues and runs around out there good.”
Should Norman beat the odds and make the team, he’s keeping No. 24.
“That’s mine,” Norman said. “He can forget about it.”
Seniority rules, he said.
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