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More to watch tonight than just RG3

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More to watch tonight than just RG3

What: Redskins vs. Bills
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet (exclusive HD broadcast), NBC NonstopOn Saturday, a pair of scuffles broke out on the practice field at Redskins Park. Two days later, Coach Mike Shanahan stopped practice after a questionable hit.Indeed, the time has arrived for Redskins to begin hitting players not wearing burgundy and gold, and Thursday night theyll finally get that chance.First impressions will be made, careers will be launched and a long-suffering fan base will get its initial look at the rookie quarterback whos already been hailed as a savior.With that as a backdrop, heres are three things, in order of importance, that the crew at www.csnwashington.com will be watching as the most anticipated preseason in years gets underway:1) Robert Griffin IIIs debut, of course.The best word to describe Griffins performance through two weeks of training camp is uneven.The 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly on the many designed running plays that have been installed to accentuate Griffins dual-threat ability. When he gets into open space when carrying the ball, defenders are left grasping at air.But weve also been reminded quite often, actually that hes still a rookie. Griffin has, at times, struggled with his accuracy and shown the tendency to hold onto the ball for too long while reading the defense.It should also be noted that Griffin has been put on an accelerated track in practice, where the coaching staff has constantly challenged him.We feel that the harder it is in practice the easier it will be in the games, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. We know its going to be tough and were trying to put him in all these tough situations so he is prepared.Added Griffin, who is expected to take 12-20 snaps: It helps me learn what Coach is going to call in those situations, so I can get my mind set on what I need to be ready to do as far as play calling goes.The encouraging news is that Griffin has made progress in each of the teams 11 practices. By his own admission, he struggled mightily on Day 1 of training camp. And, by many accounts, Tuesdays practice was his sharpest.The question now is whether hes prepared to take the next step: making plays in a live game against defenders who are not only allowed to hit him but will relish the opportunity to do so.Mike Shanahans advice to his protg?Let the plays happen, the head coach said, dont try to make it happen.2) The injury-riddled offensive line. Griffins success against the Bills might hinge on how well the big guys up front protect him.Sidelined are starters Kory Lichtensteinger (knee) and Jammal Brown (hip). Another starter, Chris Chester, is questionable after spraining his ankle Monday.If Chester joins the others on the sideline, expect backup Adam Gettis to join fellow reserves Maurice Hurt and Tyler Polumbus in lining up with the first team.Recent acquisitions Jordan Black and Tony Moll also figure to see some playing time.If the patchwork offensive line doesnt get the job done, its going to be difficult to fairly assess Griffin.3) The kicking competition. Incumbent Graham Gano is expected to get the first kickoff. After that, the battle between Gano and veteran Neil Rackers will begin in earnest.On Wednesday, special teams coach Danny Smith explained how he plans to ensure each kicker gets ample time to prove himself. Gano and Rackers will attempt a field goal or extra point and make the ensuing kickoff, Smith said, then theyll switch.Gano is 10 years younger, a familiar face in Washington after spending three seasons here and boasts the stronger leg. But, Smith said, that doesnt necessarily mean hes got an advantage very Rackers, who has an additional nine years of NFL experience and a better career field goal percentage (80.0 vs. 73.8). Obviously I know Graham better, but my job is to get to know the other guy well too, and we have four games to do so, Smith said. You guys will know it too, Im sure most of you will be able to pick it after four preseason games. Its going to be on production.Unofficially, both kickers are 16 for 19 in three head-to-head kicking competitions. But Smith said hell place more emphasis on games.Ultimately its games, Smith added. Its execution under pressure.

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Josh Norman critiques Roger Goodell, fires warning shot about coming penalties

Josh Norman critiques Roger Goodell, fires warning shot about coming penalties

Josh Norman is great talker. He almost always has something provocative to say, and his Bleacher Report interview published Thursday didn't buck the trend. 

Norman's sneering at NFC East receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant drew immediate, look-what-he-just-said attention.

But let's not gloss over the larger theme of this interview: Norman thinks the NFL is headed down the wrong path. The timid path. 

In his five seasons, the Redskins corner has been on the receiving end of flags and fines for taunting and excess contact. And yet he told Bleacher Report that he's never once met commissioner Roger Goodell. 

Asked how he would handle the commissioner job differently, Norman started with interpersonal basics. 

"First, I would change how I handle people. For one, you don't show up anywhere. You don't show up where the players show up. So how are you going to know what they want?"

"If this is the guy who is your commissioner, who makes all these rules, wouldn't you think you'd want to see him other than when you get in trouble?" he continued. "Why would I see you if I'm in trouble—what's the point? Why wouldn't I see you before then so you can eliminate that?"

MORE REDSKINS: Scouting each opponent on the Redskins' 2017 schedule

But Norman's criticism morphed from finding fault with Goodell to dissatisfaction with the overall evolution of the league.

You're going to recognize this argument. It starts with defensive players lamenting how NFL rules have moved to limit contact, turning guys timid. 

"Now you have to stop and think about it before you actually hit somebody or you're going to get fined," Norman said. "But where's the offense getting fined?"

Then comes the nostalgia for the old days when football players were tough, as opposed to today, when everyone is Mary's little lamb. 

"Playing the way people used to play it in the old days. Like Mike Haynes. Those kinds of guys. Lester Hayes. People who played it with violence and ruthlessness," Norman said when asked what kind of legacy he wants to leave. "Lockjaw. No pussyfooting around. No inching off. None of that softness."

It's that soft mindset of the modern world that's diluting football, and the young guys are part of the problem. 

"We have too many soft guys, too many guys coming up saying, 'I don't know....' Playing their little off, soft technique," he complained. "That's how the soft mind-set of this world has us thinking now."

MORE REDSKINS: Trent Murphy trying to move on from 'gut-wrenching' suspension

This line of reasoning should be very familiar so far, but most that espouse it stop short of saying what they're going to do about it.

Not Norman. 

"You can't touch guys after five yards. ... Screw that! Hands on. Call it if you call it. So what. You're going to have to call it all game."

"I want him to see me with my hands in his face. That's what I want you to see. In their chest, their breast plate, so they cough up air. They skip a beat in their heart kind of thing," Norman said. 

So ... expect some rule-stretching this season? Perhaps against NFC East opponents?

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year," he warned. "There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

Well, then. Noted. We'll let the league – and the Redskins – decide how to feel about this plan. 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

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'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

NFC East opponents don't challenge Josh Norman. Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Jr. are fake tough, no real threat to him. Not like some other receivers in the NFL. 

At least that's how the Redskins corner described them in a wide-ranging interview with Bleacher Report published on Thursday. 

The gist? The Cowboys and Giants stars get no respect from Norman, though both were involved in memorable feuds with him the past year. 

Norman got his first opportunity to talk trash when asked to do word association with the name "Dez Bryant." He took the opening and returned it for a touchdown. 

"That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy," Norman said.

"He doesn't 'wow' you. For me, he don't. For other guys, he probably will do the worst to them because he'll bully them. But you can't bully a bully. You know what I'm saying? That's why his game doesn't resonate to me."

To jog your memory, Norman and Bryant went at it after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving last year. Bryant said Washington should get a refund on Norman's contract. There was also drama about whether Norman falsely accused Bryant of threatening to "unload the clip" on him.

Real mature, substantive conflict. 

RELATED: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

The Redskins corner didn't go any easier on Beckham, who of all receivers in the league has had the most explosive run-ins with Norman. 

In fact, Beckham's helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman in a 2015 contest between the Giants and Panthers led the NFL to change rules for ejections. Beckham had racked up three unnecessary roughness penalties in that game. 

"[Beckham] tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other," Norman said, suggesting that he's able to push OBJ over the edge and out of control. 

"He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy."

"When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man," Norman concluded.

It must have been an exercise in restraint not to mention OBJ's kicking-net tantrum after losing to the Redskins last year. 

As the interview moved on, there wasn't a receiver that drew respect from Norman until the name Julio Jones came up. Norman got to see the Falcons receiver twice a year when he played for Carolina in the NFC South. 

"Now, that is the ultimate challenge. That's when I can do things in a split-second, a millisecond, just choo-choo-choo," Norman said of facing Jones. He said he's missed that challenge since moving to the NFC East. 

"It's the worst. Because I'm just battling 'guys.' I'm not battling against something I can call 'greatness.' I'm not enhancing my craft. Don't get me wrong. They're tough. But they're not [Jones]," he said. He also named Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey as other receivers who could provide a real test. 

But whether those matchups excite Norman or not, he knows they can't touch the hype of NFC East showdowns, especially ones involving Beckham. 

"That game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!"

The interview ended with Norman looking forward to playing with new Redskins safety DJ Swearinger, who has a reputation as a hard-hitting intimidator.

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year. You think the NFC East didn't like each other before? This year right here? There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't. And I know they don't have that many people on the offense who do on their side."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

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