Cornerback Norman excited to face former team
Felt ‘stabbed in the back’ by Panthers
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 Carolina placed the franchise tag on Norman, rescinded it and let him leave.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.