Cor­ner­back Nor­man ex­cited to face for­mer team

Felt ‘stabbed in the back’ by Pan­thers

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Take a left out of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins locker room, cir­cle be­hind the stairs and slip through the weight room to get into an ad­ja­cent four walls for press con­fer­ences. In­side is a brown podium, which is a non­de­script piece of fur­ni­ture un­til some­one stands be­hind it.

Josh Nor­man al­ways grabs it with two hands, words per­co­lat­ing in his belly. Each time, the Red­skins cor­ner­back starts with a quiet voice. His open­ing state­ment Thurs­day about the death of tele­vi­sion re­porter Craig Sager was barely au­di­ble. But, as the ques­tions came, his voice rose, ca­dence quick­ened. At times his podium grip tight­ened. He laughed. One of his fa­vorite ver­bal mech­a­nisms — the metaphor — was dis­patched. The Red­skins are play­ing Nor­man’s for­mer team, the Carolina Pan­thers, Dec. 19 in prime time, which makes this like ev­ery other week: It’s Josh Nor­man Week.

Nor­man’s de­par­ture from Carolina was not am­i­ca­ble nor was it busi­ness. It was a grumpy mess. Carolina placed the fran­chise tag on Nor­man, re­scinded it and let him leave. His sign­ing with the Red­skins was swift and stun­ning and did lit­tle to dis­place the bit­ter­ness about his tor­nado end in Carolina. On a con­fer­ence call with Char­lotte re­porters ear­lier in the day, Nor­man said he felt “stabbed in the back in a way,” be­fore al­low­ing that Pan­thers gen­eral man­ager plan­tar fasci­itis Dave Get­tle­man may not have in­tended that feel­ing.

So, Nor­man held back when asked again later in the day about his Carolina con­clu­sion.

“Well, what is to say that I haven’t al­ready said?” Nor­man said. “I think I’m just beat­ing a dead horse. It’s kind of like when I speak on that, you’ll hear about it in the Book of Nor­man one day.”

Wash­ing­ton coach Jay Gru­den has not spo­ken to Nor­man about con­trol­ling his emo­tions this week. Gru­den laughed when in­formed that Nor­man, who had been in fights at prac­tice in Carolina, and mul­ti­ple near-fights on the field against op­po­nents, “tends” to be emo­tional. Those same roil­ing emo­tions led to a three-pronged ex­pla­na­tion of Nor­man by his for­mer coach, Ron Rivera.

“First of all, Josh is a good per­son,” Rivera said. “He has got a ter­rific heart, he re­ally [does]. Sec­ondly, he has al­ways been flam­boy­ant. Third, he is stub­born, hard-headed, but he lis­tens, he learned and he grew and you saw his de­vel­op­ment. He’s be­come, you know, for what we felt for us was ‘that guy.’ And, again, things hap­pen and un­for­tu­nately he is not here, but he is solid foot­ball player and, as I said, a much bet­ter per­son.”

To Nor­man’s right as he spoke was part-time re­porter, full-time de­fen­sive line­man Ricky Jean Fran­cois. The bub­bly Haitian is yet to find a con­ver­sa­tion he’s un­will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in, and know­ing it was yet again Josh Nor­man Week at the com­plex, he was the first to an­nounce, “Josh Nor­man to the podium!” from in­side Wash­ing­ton’s locker room.

Dur­ing the press con­fer­ence, Jean Fran­cois tweeted the ques­tions.

Few passes have been thrown at Nor­man of late. Will Nor­man be tar­geted on Mon­day by friend and for­mer prac­tice fight­ing part­ner Cam New­ton?

“I hope so,” Nor­man said. “The com­peti­tor in him … Well, it’s two things. Cam, the coach tells him no. Cam, the com­peti­tor, yes. So I’m look­ing for that guy. Just like prac­tice.”

Jean Fran­cois next hit so­cial me­dia with a ques­tion if Nor­man will be able to con­trol his emo­tions Mon­day, not al­low­ing them to get the best of him.

“I don’t know if emo­tions ever do be­cause now I just let them run wild,” Nor­man said. “So what­ever you see is what you’re go­ing to get. But I do know how to con­tain it to a cer­tain ex­tent. But then again, I just let the fire go that’s in­side and I don’t know how to pretty much shut it off once it gets started. So it’s kind of one of those things where it’s go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent feel. Def­i­nitely it’s go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent feel, I know that.”

Lastly, can Nor­man be more “fired up” than nor­mal?

“Oh, if there was an­other level, I think all of these cam­eras would be burned right now,” Nor­man said.

Nor­man’s for­mer team is a limp­ing ver­sion of the force it was last year. The Pan­thers went to the Su­per Bowl fol­low­ing a 15-1 reg­u­lar sea­son in 2015. This year, they are 5-8 af­ter win­ning last week. Carolina is 30th in the league in pass­ing yards al­lowed per game in its first sea­son with­out Nor­man. The op­por­tu­nity for gloat­ing is punch-in-the-face ap­par­ent. Nor­man chose not to.

“I don’t like to kick peo­ple when they’re down so that’s a thing that I don’t, I haven’t been taught to do,” Nor­man said. “I just see how you come up in a sys­tem and you know the guys and you build that bond and ev­ery­one knew where you were at at that very mo­ment in time. Then one of those cogs from the sys­tem ab­so­lutely, abruptly de­parts and then you try to fill that void and that hole, I mean, shoot, just like any­thing else, it’s go­ing to take time.”

The ques­tions stopped when a Red­skins pub­lic re­la­tions staffer an­nounced that Nor­man had to at­tend a 3:45 p.m. meet­ing, The mics were dropped, he re­leased the podium back to its mun­dane state and stepped off the riser. Jean Fran­cois looked right, then cov­ered Nor­man in the style of a hu­man shield as they stepped into the weight room. All had sur­vived an­other Josh Nor­man Week. Even the one against his for­mer team.

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