- The Washington Times
Monday, August 12, 2019

RICHMOND — Kelvin Harmon noticed Josh Norman at the table alone.

It was the first night of training camp and both had arrived at dinner at the Washington Redskins‘ team hotel, earlier than the rest of their teammates. So the sixth-round rookie wide receiver did something those lacking confidence certainly do not — he joined him.


For the rest of the night, the two hit it off. Harmon, whose NFL draft profile described the 6-foot-2 wideout as having “big dog swagger,” used the dinner as an opportunity to pick a Pro Bowler’s brain. Norman’s main piece of advice centered around a ideology Harmon had been hearing for most of his life, a mantra that fueled him.

“You’ve got to put in the extra work to be great,” Norman told Harmon.

Harmon agreed. After all, it’s how he made it to the NFL out of North Carolina State in the first place. But at the professional level, Harmon still has much to learn, which is why he asked Norman the following morning to work together one-on-one after practice.

Norman obliged — kicking off a daily post-practice workout that lasts at least 20 minutes, sometimes longer. Typically, the two men are the last ones off the field, and they likely will be again when practice shifts back to Ashburn this week.

“It says he wants it,” Norman said. “It says he wants not to just to be good — he wants to be great. A lot of people don’t have that. Hell, you can tell who goes in (after practice) and who stays out.”

Harmon wasn’t the first player to approach Norman for extra reps outside of practice. But the players who usually ask, Norman said, are fellow defensive backs.

Norman, though, didn’t have any hesitations in helping out Norman. Why would he? The Redskins would be the ones ultimately benefitting if Harmon’s work ethic translates into on-field production.

When practice ends, Norman and Harmon line up against each other, focusing on their releases at the line of scrimmage. The two go through a variety of routes, with Harmon focused on breaking past Norman’s physicality, and Norman focused on grappling with Harmon’s size.

Harmon appreciates the work because he’s getting a chance to specifically work on areas of his game that aren’t as comfortable to him. In practice, Harmon needs to make an impression; he’s fighting for a roster spot, fighting to prove he can be a playmaker in the NFL.

But with Norman, Harmon can directly work on his weaknesses.

“I feel like we’re both locked in,” Harmon said, “so it feels just as real as a game or a live practice.”

The fact Harmon was even available to the Redskins in the sixth round was a mild surprise. When Harmon first announced he was leaving N.C. State after his junior season, draft experts pegged him as a potential second- or third-round pick.

Harmon had a productive college career, catching 81 passes for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. But concerns about his 4.6 40-yard dash and his ability to separate could explain his draft-weekend slide.

Still, when Norman describes Harmon, he draws a comparison to a wide receiver that’s already great, one of the best — if not the best — in the league: Julio Jones.

“He’s a little baby Julio if you ask me,” said Norman, who used to regularly face Jones when he was with the Carolina Panthers. “He has the ability. He has the size. It’s just getting him acclimated, getting him in, getting him going. I mean, he looks great out here, fantastic.”

Norman said he wants Harmon to get more playing time, adding the rookie can become an elite-level receiver if he gets the opportunity.

Coach Jay Gruden has admitted it has been “tricky” to find the right amount of reps for his receivers in camp, but noted he feels good about all of them. Last week in his preseason debut against the Cleveland Browns, Harmon received 20 offensive snaps and caught two passes for 17 yards.

Harmon has a long way to go in order to be thought of as one of the NFL’s best receivers, but he’s determined to prove it — no matter how many extra post-practice workouts it takes.

“It’s just the way I was raised, just always playing with a chip on my shoulder, just always wanting to be the best playmaker out on the field during a game,” Harmon said. “(I’m) just trying to be great.”


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