Josh Norman has started 38 regular-season games in his four-year NFL career. Let me repeat that so it sinks in: Josh Norman has started 38 regular-season games in his four-year NFL career.
Of a possible 64 games, Norman, now with the Washington Redskins after playing his first four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, has played in 53 and started those 38 at cornerback. Last season was the first in which he started all 16 games.
He did it exceptionally well, and his season included the famous battle with Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. His growth prompted Carolina to place the franchise tag on him in February, but when general manager Dave Gettleman came to the conclusion that Norman’s asking price was too high and not wanting to experience a summer-long (and possibly longer) holdout, the Panthers rescinded the tag, making Norman an unrestricted free agent.
He quickly landed a huge contract with the Redskins for $75 million over five years with as much as $50 million guaranteed. All of that for 38 starts, but it’s enough to make Norman boast, “I’m the best cornerback on Earth.”
Yes, that’s what he said in a recently published ESPN the Magazine profile in which virtually no one was safe, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, and, yes, the aforementioned Beckham.
Unfiltered would be an understatement in describing the stream of consciousness that comes out of his mouth. We in the media love when athletes fill our notebooks with great things to write or create sound bites for all means of TV, radio and the Internet. Some say it’s hypocritical for media to criticize what an athlete says after we circulate their words. Not so. We can be glad when they give us stories, but those performers open themselves up for reaction when their words often appear to be said without much thinking. That’s the problem with Norman.
For his sake, he creates a target on his back, which he just might relish. Secondarily, quite frankly, a good deal of what he says doesn’t make sense or is simply inaccurate.
Take what he said about Bradford, for instance: “Have you ever once been one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the league? Not that I remember — and you want more money? I can’t wait to play him twice a year.”
The essence of that comment is apparently based on his belief that Bradford didn’t report at the beginning of offseason workouts because he wanted “more money.” It simply isn’t true. Maybe Norman is so into himself he doesn’t pay attention to the facts.
Before free agency started, Bradford re-signed with the Eagles for $35 million over two years with $22 million fully guaranteed This year, he will be paid $18 million in guaranteed salary and bonuses. Bradford bet on himself in accepting the deal, figuring he’d play well as the starter and parlay that into a long-term extension after the season.
Then came the trade. The Eagles sent numerous picks to the Browns to move to the second spot in the draft with the obvious intention of selecting a quarterback. The stunned Bradford figured he was now nothing more than a placeholder for whoever the quarterback would be, and not the team’s long-term answer. Agent Tom Condon hoped the Broncos might be interested in a trade, but that never happened, and Bradford reported after missing two weeks of voluntary workouts. The Eagles had selected Carson Wentz after the Rams picked Jared Goff first overall.
Norman and others can disagree with what Bradford did, but at least understand why he did it.
Then, there were his comments about Goodell and Smith.
Of the commissioner, Norman said, “I get that he makes the owners money, but literally anyone could do that. A dog could. He’s a dog in a suit. … Horrible. He’s straight horrible.”
He opined the NFL is “a dictatorship” and that Smith is “in cahoots with those guys.”
Really? That prompted NFLPA executive George Atallah to say on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “Anybody who thinks that DeMaurice Smith is in cahoots with Roger Goodell hasn’t been paying attention.”
Which brings us to Week 15 last season and the almost game-long, over-the-top antics of Beckham and Norman. After it was over, Beckham was suspended for one game and Norman fined $25,000. There were reports gay slurs were directed at Beckham prior to the game, although that was never substantiated.
Also before the game, Norman was swinging a baseball bat on the field during warm-ups, which Norman claimed “totally unnerved (Beckham).” Norman said a player on the practice field brought the bat out (head coach Ron Rivera had used it as motivation in a team meeting), and Norman claimed to ESPN, “I was just swinging it for fun.” Right.
In a GQ article recently, Beckham said of Norman, “The reason he’s become so relevant is because of me.”
Now, the pair will face off twice a season, just as Norman will be defending passes twice a season from Bradford. We’re waiting for him to say something, anything about the Cowboys.
Finally, Norman told ESPN about Beckham, “Everybody saw what he was. People from around the league were coming up to me afterward and saying, ‘He does that crap all the time.’ He lost so much respect from people for that little tantrum. I’ve already got a couple people telling me, ‘OK, I’ve got a hit out on him.’ It’s going to be rough for him this year. And he brought it on himself.
“He’s skilled and talented. I won’t take that away from him. But he’s never been through any adversity in his life. It’s like, when are you ever going to grow up?”
Hmmm. There are some that might say that about Josh Norman.