Norwood Ready To Report For Training Camp

Another summer ends and another pre-season begins. But this time around it won't be just another camp for Jerious Norwood. After all these amateur years competing for top spot on a depth chart, this former Bulldog is now working for his place on a professional payroll.

Norwood reports this week to training camp as the Atlanta Falcons open primary preparations for the 2006 season. "I'm going back to Atlanta on the 26th," Norwood said, "and camp starts two days later." As does his official NFL career.

It's a transition the Brandon native has been pointing for practically since taking his first handoff…though this will be the first time Norwood has played under some other nickname than ‘Bulldog' after his stints at Brandon High and Mississippi State. Whatever the label, Norwood has already found the pro life to his liking.

"It's been cool, go to work every day!" he grins. "I have to be there at like 7:00 in the morning." Not that this is any problem for a guy long accustomed to beating the dawn to his favorite hunting and fishing sites. Besides, he says, the Falcons facility at Flowery Branch is as nice an ‘office' as any young entry-level professional could ask. "It's real nice, a top-of-the-line baby!"

Of course Norwood has already gotten an idea of what the ‘next level' of the game is about. The third-round draft pick of Atlanta, he participated in mini-camp as expected. And as he expected, it was an experience. A prep prodigy and college standout, Norwood has never really been in a setting where everybody was as talented as himself. But that's what pro ball is about and this Dog welcomes the chance to prove himself among his newest peer group.

It helps that Atlanta's playbook looks comfortably comparable to the one Norwood worked off the past two seasons in Coach Sylvester Croom's system. "We've basically got the same offense Mississippi State had," Norwood says. "I don't think they call it the ‘west coast' offense but the terminology is basically the same structure." That's good news because in this sort of structure Norwood gained 1,050 yards as a junior and 1,136 more as a senior. He left with both the MSU game and career rushing records.

So fitting into the Falcons system has been smooth, so far. "Oh yeah, with no problem." Matching up physically? That is the next challenge for Norwood, battling both teammates and the elements. Mini-camp was tough, he says. "But man, they say training camp is going to be a lot worse. But I'll be ready for it. I'm in shape."

Speaking of ‘fitting in' Norwood has found a corps of comrades to work with. One, he already knew well from his college days as Norwood is now reunited with fullback Justin ‘Cokie' Griffith. "That's my boy! I got to play with Cokie one year and he's showing me the ropes, teaching me the dos and the don'ts and leading the way for me." Reminded by the reporter that Griffith did that once before as the blocking back, Norwood laughs. "Oh yeah, literally!"

"I like ol' Michael Vick, he's cool! Pretty much all the guys are nice, easy to talk to and get along with. Cokie isn't the only one that's helped me, a lot of the guys have…Warrick Dunn tells me things, T.J. Duckett, those guys are on my side."

Yes, J-Rock, but don't those guys want the job you are trying out for? Norwood goes into camp listed third on the Falcon depth chart with Dunn on top. He did go to his first mini-camp thinking that the competition would be cut-throat, and was pleasantly surprised.

"It seems like I'd be against somebody and somebody against me. But it's really not like that, we all pull together and help each other out." That includes Duckett, the subject of summer trade rumors. It hasn't impacted anyone's attitude yet, Norwood says. "T.J. is real cool, that's just his personality. I mean, let's say if I was in the same situation I wouldn't have any attitude because I was going to get traded; I'd encourage him to work and I'd expect him to encourage me so we could be the best we can be. And whatever happens, happens."

Safe to say Norwood is planning on good things happening. Because the rookie has already bought a house—"10 minutes from the facility"—in Flowery Branch. Maybe it reflects his mature mindset that he gave house-hunting a higher priority than real hunting, Norwood's true passion. At State he was legendary for the days spent in the woods and by the waters; now Norwood has the chance to check out new locales.

"Nah, I haven't found a place yet, but I'm working on it. I've heard they've got pretty good hunting in north and south Georgia."

And while working on his own career, this new alumnus will keep in touch with his college program. Norwood left a huge hole in the Bulldog backfield, yet he has faith Brandon Thornton or Derek Ambrose can fill the need. Or, perhaps one of the newer guys on the roster.

"I don't know what's going to happen yet," says Norwood about State's depth chart. "I guess we'll have to wait it out and see."

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