A soccer ball might hold the key to the Washington Redskins' playoff hopes.
Josh Norman, the team's Pro Bowl cornerback, can almost never be spotted without one. A recent story from The Ringer details how Norman's soccer habit is both helping him on the football field and helping build better team chemistry throughout the organization.
While Norman's appreciation of soccer was first built during his childhood via the FIFA video game series, his omnipresent soccer ball is a rather new addition. It seems to be a habit he began when he first arrived in Washington in 2016. When he's at the Redskins facility, he can be spotted dribbling the ball around or passing it with teammates. When he's at his home, he's kicking it off a wall and settling the rebound. Norman believes the footwork, agility and athleticism soccer can teach is benefitting him in his role as a lockdown cornerback.
"It helps my feet," Norman told The Ringer. "My footwork is essential to what I'm doing in my career. I'm trying to guard receivers and I need to keep my feet moving, so I keep my feet moving with the ball … I started to implement my DBs with it because it helps footwork."
Norman might be 29 years old, but it's never too late to pick up a new sport, right? College football coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Mike Leach purposefully seek out recruits with a soccer background because of their nimble athleticism. NFL stars like Ndamukong Suh, Jay Ajayi and Marcus Mariota all credit a childhood spent playing soccer for giving them an edge amongst their peers.
Norman's even been attempting to perfect his bicycle kick, perhaps the most acrobatic move in soccer. It requires an incredible amount of athleticism and hand-foot coordination to pull it off successfully. "Right now, I've been working on my bicycle kick," Norman said. "I bought a machine that throws the ball to me. I got it a few months ago."
Aside from a training tool, Norman's soccer ball has helped him bond with teammates. "I just like getting guys involved—I think it's a social-skill thing. You pass it to them, have a conversation with them, and you can also see their footwork, see who does a good job," Norman said.
Considering it's keeping the team loose and helping Norman develop some skills he might not have previously had, we're all for it.
Photo Credit: @MasterTes on Twitter