By: Will Stevenson
*He talks a big game and plays a big game*
The Olympics are over, NBA Free Agency is basically over, and it is now time for the NFL to reclaim its stake as the Number 1 media draw in America. The Preseason is similar to the spline of the sports world. On one hand, it is important to get schemes, familiarity with veterans and newcomers, coaching staff and projections for the upcoming season. One the other hand, it’s viewed as not being important, but necessary for fringe players. Most starters are putting in about a quarter or two of action and implementing not much of their total game plan. Teams usually spend the week practicing against the team they will be playing that same week, and as tempers flare from hitting the same guy over and over again, this time period is mostly repetition and staying away from injuries. So with all of this free time, us fans and players don’t have much to do other than talk. For Josh Norman, he’s doing just that.
As most of us know, in sports when a player is released, traded or not resigned, there can always be a lingering resentment from said player. Not many players speak on the behaviors of management and teammates while they are in the situation, they usually wait until they join a new team to get those things off of their chest. More times than not, players will keep their issues with their former team to themselves, and will usually refuse to feed the media frenzy by calling out their former organization in any way. We’ve all heard the boring interviews and press conferences with these players. The media will ask questions about their former team, how things went, what happened and so on. Most players just reply, “What happened in the past is past, I’m just focused on right now with this new group of guys. I just want to give everything I have and I’m looking forward to this new situation.” Actually, that’s a pretty smart idea. When a player decides to reveal the bad blood and the things that were overlooked inside the locker room and behind closed doors with management, we as fans storm back with, “hater” or “salty” depending on if we like that player or not. We want players to air their dirty laundry, because, for us, sports is the arena in which most men get their “drama fix”.
When Josh Norman’s franchise tag was rescinded at the near end of free agency, there were mixed feelings on what his market would be as a 28-year-old cornerback that was mainly viewed as a Cover 3 (zone) player. There wasn’t question about his talent, but there was a question of where he would go, and how would he be utilized. After signing with Washington this offseason, Norman has received just about as much scrutiny as Kevin Durant and Robert Griffin III. We seem to care about Washington’s practice all of a sudden. For some odd reason, we as casual NFL fans are focused on seeing how many times Norman gives up a touchdown or a reception to a receiver: During Practice. I don’t think we really care, nor do we give two shakes if Washington is a good team. We just want to see Norman suffer.
Josh Norman isn’t what we think when we think about football. On the flip-side, he’s everything we want in football. It’s one of those things when if we like you, we’ll treat you nice, but if we don’t, we will make sure you suffer every time you mess up. Norman is brash, he talks, he markets himself, he’s confident, he’s skilled, and he’s not concerned with how we view him. For some reason unknown to man, we want our NFL players to shut up, dress right, play well, never get hurt, give it all on the field, help our fantasy teams, act like you been there before and entertain us all at the same time. You may think that’s hyperbole, but I would ask you to look at the blog comments whenever you get the chance. Look at twitter and ask yourself if we view these guys rationally. Norman is a grown man, took a route to the NFL that isn’t common, and has put himself in a position to play for a Superbowl and be a top-flight cornerback in this league. It would be rational for us to give him praise and be happy for him, his new contract and his new team, but that’s not really what we are about as a whole.
We want to be the ones who decide if you’re worthy of praise, not the player. Josh Norman cannot claim to be the best in the league because we look down upon those sort of claims. We aren’t looking at pro football focus or his cornerback rankings specifically, he just talks too much for us and we don’t like that. You might say we loved it from Deion Sanders, but did we? We feel that we are the ones that have the say-so on how good you actually are, and we do not appreciate it when a player tells us how good they are. Why are we so against the confidence and cockiness of athletes? Why do have a disdain for players who are spoken? You see that I didn’t say “outspoken” because outspoken is to assume that players should not be this way. I do understand the concept of karma and being an athlete that thinks highly and speaks highly of themselves can turn badly for you, but that shouldn’t deter players like him to keep quiet. Cornerbacks get beaten whether they speak out, or keep quiet. Marvin Harrison dropped passes while not talking, and Terrell Owens dropped passes while talking. We beg for these players to open up to us and we long for them to be themselves, be flamboyant, be aggressive, be “outspoken”, but I feel we only want that so we can have something to talk about. So we have some driving force to rail against them if and when they fail. My definition of fail is a dropped pass, or a missed tackle or giving up a long pass, but there’s always redemption.
Maybe we just don’t like Washington. Maybe we don’t like Kirk Cousins. Maybe it’s fallout from RGIII. Maybe we don’t like free agent cornerbacks with big contracts. I’m sure it’s a mixture of things, but there’s no reason for us to root for Josh Norman to fail. He climbed from a small college to the pros. From being bench to being in the discussion as the best. Now he’s paid after being let go from a team that was a few plays from being champions. Josh Norman is speaking his mind and not holding anything back. We should want him to continue to be himself, it brings the best out of his personality and his play. Sure, it may sound like sour grapes to some, but not being appreciated for what you do isn’t sour grapes. We all go through it in our line of work so we should be able to relate to him. We think it’s easy for guys to “fall in line” with the politics on a given team, and be appreciative of the opportunity.
Josh Norman will now bow, will not beg, and will not be silenced. Be you, Josh Norman, I love it.