Smith, Norman have a his­tory

Ex-Pan­thers team­mates who bat­tled in prac­tices could face off Sun­day

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

Ravens wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. and Wash­ing­ton Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Norman did the un­ex­pected Wed­nes­day. The two out­spo­ken per­son­al­i­ties mostly bit their tongues when asked about their po­ten­tial matchup Sun­day at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

But at least one Raven, who has al­ways en­joyed a good one-on-one duel, whether it’s on screen or on the foot­ball field, couldn’t help but smile when pon­der­ing Smith ver­sus Norman.

“That is go­ing to be kind of fun,” line­backer Ter­rell Suggs said. “These t eams don’t have bad blood, [but] it’s al­ways ex­cit­ing to see two com­peti­tors go at it. I’m not sure if it’s go­ing to be one of those Odell Beck­ham-Norman kinds of things, but it should be good.”

Smith and Norman are the two big­gest light­ning rods on their teams, and they have a his­tory. The two were Carolina Pan­thers team­mates in 2012 and 2013, and had a few heated ex­changes in prac­tice. Nei­ther player elab­o­rated on them in in­ter­views Wed­nes­day.

“It was very in­tense,” Norman said in a con­fer­ence call with Bal­ti­more-area re­porters. “Those were in­tense to the point where I’m sure if you’ll do your re­search, you’ll find out how in­tense they were.”

As a Pan­thers rookie in 2012, Norman was vo­cal about the job he did in cov­er­ing Smith in or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties and mini­camp, prompt­ing the wide re­ceiver to say, “Once late July, Au­gust comes, he’s go­ing to learn very quickly this isn’t Coastal Carolina. I look for­ward Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 45, 5 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 4

to camp.”

When he faced Norman and the Pan­thers in Septem­ber 2014 in a lop­sided Ravens vic­tory, Smith caught seven passes for 139 yards and two scores, and bragged about run­ning past de­fend­ers as if they were “school­yard kids.” Norman did not spent much time de­fend­ing Smith that af­ter­noon.

In an on-air ap­pear­ance with ESPN in Jan­uary, Smith said Norman was a “good player … not a great player.” How­ever, in front of his locker Wed­nes­day, Smith re­ferred to Norman, who signed a five-year, $75 mil­lion con­tract with the Red­skins in April, as “one of the few elite cor­ners in the game.”

“I just know him as Josh. I re­mem­ber the young guy com­ing in,” Smith said. “I kind of see the per­son. I don’t re­ally pay at­ten­tion to all the other stuff. I’m just go­ing to have fun and as they say, play out my days and just en­joy ball.

“It’s no need to make it about two in­di­vid­u­als. If the cen­ter doesn’t snap the ball, a line­man doesn’t block, a quar­ter­back doesn’t throw, a re­ceiver is ob­so­lete. It’s re­ally about fo­cus­ing on what we need to im­prove on as a team. We came out there and stunk it up for about two or three quar­ters [against the Oak­land Raiders]. To make it about Josh and all this stuff, this isn’t about Josh. This is about the Bal­ti­more Ravens play­ing bet­ter foot­ball for four quar­ters in all three phases of the game.”

There, of course, is no cer­tainty that Smith and Norman will spend a lot of time matched up against each other Sun­day. Norman nor­mally sticks on the left side, and if coach Jay Gru­den didn’t have the star cor­ner­back shadow the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers’ An­to­nio Brown ear­lier this year, it seems un­likely he’d have him do it against Smith, who tra­di­tion­ally lines up in var­i­ous spots.

“I’m go­ing to do any­thing Coach asks me to do,” Norman said. “I re­ally don’t know at this point in time. It’s still early in the week.”

Smith, 37, won­dered on his con­fer­ence call with Wash­ing­ton-area re­porters why Norman, 28, would match up with an “old … re­ceiver like me.”

It’s in­evitable, though, that the two for­mer team­mates will get to­gether on the field at some point, and their his­tory and per­son­al­i­ties are a good in­di­ca­tion it will be a matchup worth watch­ing dur­ing and af­ter the play.

Both play­ers have a his­tory of not “It’s no need to make it about two in­di­vid­u­als,” Ravens’ Steve Smith Sr. said. only not back­ing down from con­fronta­tions but ini­ti­at­ing them. Smith has got­ten into it with team­mates and op­po­nents alike, and his body of work in­cludes a postgame con­fronta­tion with Jack­sonville Jaguars rookie cor­ner­back Jalen Ram­sey in Week 3. Smith was ejected dur­ing a 2015 pre­sea­son game against the Red­skins af­ter a scuf­fle with cor­ner­back Chris Cul­liver.

“Shoot, his com­pet­i­tive drive is what makes him who he is. That’s what makes him go. Ob­vi­ously, you can see that on the field. He plays like a de­fen­sive player play­ing of­fense. That’s kind of got him where he is if you ask me,” Norman said, main­tain­ing that he re­spects Smith and has a good re­la­tion­ship with him. “I grew up play­ing him. Trust me, I’m very much doc­tored in that.”

Norman, how­ever, said he wouldn’t hes­i­tate to talk trash with Smith, which should come as no sur­prise.

The cor­ner­back’s fight with thenPan­thers team­mate quar­ter­back Cam New­ton in the sum­mer of 2015 got Norman na­tional at­ten­tion.

That, along with his feud with the New York Giants’ Beck­ham and his emer­gence as one of the game’s best cor­ner­backs, has made Norman a house­hold name. “It was very in­tense,” Josh Norman said of heated ex­changes with Smith.

Each week seem­ingly brings an­other head­line with Norman, whether it’s his pub­lic crit­i­cism of NFL com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell, his matchup with Beck­ham or his cel­e­bra­tory bow-and-ar­row cel­e­bra­tion Sun­day against the Cleve­land Browns. The ges­ture re­port­edly earned him a $10,000 fine.

“He is a grown man; he can do what­ever he wants,” Ravens wide re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace said of Norman. “On the field, I think he’s a great player. He just has a re­ally good feel for the game..”

Both coaches — the Ravens’ John Har­baugh and the Red­skins’ Jay Gru­den — didn’t sound con­cerned that the po­ten­tial matchup will re­sult in any ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity.

For his part, Smith said he and his of­fen­sive team­mates have big­ger con­cerns.

“Peo­ple come in there and ex­pect us to play well, and we have not played that way,” he said. “That is where the frus­tra­tion is. I think at times we have kind of played down or played with one hand tied be­hind our back, where we should have been play­ing on all cylin­ders go­ing full speed and min­i­miz­ing mis­takes, but we haven’t.”



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