Josh Norman has had to answer a lot of questions about last season, Odell Beckham, Jr., and becoming the NFL’s highest paid cornerback.
On Thursday, Norman met one of his critics — an NFL debate table-setter — face-to-face.
Max Kellerman, Stephen A. Smith’s new co-host on ESPN’s “First Take” since Skip Bayless departed for Fox, made a case earlier in the week that Washington may have overpaid for Norman, whom Kellerman described as a “zone corner,” and not a “shutdown corner.”
It just so happens First Take was filming from Redskins training camp when they happened to have Norman booked for an interview, and, according to Kellerman, Norman personally requested his presence for it. Norman came ready to debate Kellerman on his critiques.
Kellerman: I got messages today: Josh Norman’s like, ‘Make sure he’s there. Don’t duck me.’ So I’m here. Why’d you want to make sure I was here?
Norman: Why do I want to make sure you were here? I like how you’re throwing that back at me, though.
Kellerman: I thought it had something to do with Odell Beckham comments.
Norman: Man, it didn’t have nothing to do with none of that. I just think that, to know to understand the position, to how you guys was talking about me out here on the practice field getting beat up by a wide receiver on one-on-ones, and, it’s just one-on-ones in practice. That’s what happens.
That, believe it or not, was not the topic out of which Kellerman was making a big deal.
Kellerman: I wasn’t making a big deal out of that!
Norman: I mean it’s just like, gosh. Oh, it’s World War III. Like, bombs over Baghdad out here! Like, I’m trying to figure out.
Kellerman: I wasn’t making a big deal out of that. I don’t think that’s fair to you that a dude like DeSean Jackson puts one move on you in practice and it’s all over the internet. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Norman: So what are you talking about?
Kellerman: What I’m talking about is… the game against Odell, where it’s like ‘Josh Norman did a great job on him,’ and I give you credit, you’re so competitive, I think you got into his head because he dropped what would have been a touchdown catch. But he did beat you on the play.
Norman: Okay. Let’s talk about that drop. Let’s talk about that drop, okay? First off, I’m gonna go back and clarify that, because everybody thought I was in man [coverage], which is not true. Let me clarify, it was not man. It was Cover 4. So in a Cover 4, I’m looking outside and of course, quarter, quarter, half — that’s how you play it. So, quarter-safety is gonna be there. But, at the same time, I’m not passing no blame on nobody for what they do. I’m going, I’m looking back at the quarterback, I see him break. I look back, nobody there. I’m running to go and catch him. I might have said some things, but who knows?! I’m not gonna tell you on field.
Here’s a good look at the play in question. Catch it from another perspective here.
Norman: But! Looking back, he dropped the ball! But at the same time, that’s on him. That’s not on what I’ve done or anything like that. But at the same time, go back and watch film and see what coverage we were in. So for you to say that, and say we was man on that play, from everybody seeing that and how, ‘Ohhhh. He got beat.’ Check it out. Watch the full thing. I look back, I’m running speeding up! So, it’s not like we’re playing one-on-one.
Kellerman: Can you play man on Odell? Listen, you’re in the NFC East at that position. What you’ve been paid to do now is ridiculous when you consider the receivers in the division. Can you play man-defense in this day and age with these rules and these receivers in your division?
Norman: Wow. Well, like I said, you probably have to go back and watch the film, because that’s what I’ve done when we played them last year. It’s no different. I played the two guys in our division last year! Dez and Odell. Both of them! And I played them man! So it’s like, for me, I’m trying to figure out where’s all this coming from?
Smith jumped in at this point to explain why Norman’s ability to play man-coverage is such a hotly debated topic.
“You being paid the way that you are, with folks looking at the cornerback position and you see a Richard Sherman, and you see a Patrick Peterson, and you see so many of the other guys, so many people trying to debate, and to some degree the players themselves playing that position debating who’s the best, who’s not,” Smith said.
“Responsibilities. Darrelle Revis talked to us about getting up on a guy, playing bump-and-run, manning up and following your man as opposed to somebody that’s subjected to zone schemes and playing that way. The pressure is on you with this team, who’s the reigning, defending NFC East champions, to step up and buffer that secondary even more. Do you feel that pressure and do you embrace it?”
“Pressure bursts pipes,” Norman said. “And I don’t have any.”
“So do I feel pressure on myself? No,” he continued. “I’m not trying to come out here and prove people wrong; I’m trying to prove that I’m right! At the end of the day, I’m going to go out here and do what I do. Play a physical-style football, in-your-face smash-mouth. That’s what we do.
“End of the day, I don’t really care about what other people say. That’s they own opinions, man. Like for me, everybody look like, ‘Oh, how did he get here?’ I’m an enigma to people. I’m an enigma. And people don’t understand that, so they’re trying to figure it out. And at the end of the day, I’m gonna do what I gotta do for my teammates and we’re gonna be where we’re gonna be after all’s said and done.”