Josh Norman rebuffs critics: 'It comes with the territory'

ASHBURN, Virginia -- Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman is back where he's comfortable: dealing with critics. In the past week they've called him the team's third-best corner and also someone focused on celebrity who has gone Hollywood.

They watched him get benched for the start of the second half in Monday's 43-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints after blowing a coverage for a long touchdown in the second quarter.

"I'm a target, man. I am. I'm a hot button. You press it, you're going to get a ring," Norman said. "It comes with the territory."

Norman also had words with Saints receiver Michael Thomas during the game and on social media afterward. But there was also criticism from former teammate DeAngelo Hall, who said Monday on 106.7 The Fan that "Josh, I think, is in love with being a celebrity right now and not necessarily being a football player."

Redskins coach Jay Gruden disagreed with Hall's assessment.

"I love D. Hall, but damn. ... I think when things don't go well, there's going to be a lot of reasons why," Gruden said, "but I don't think that's a reason at all. I think the communication wasn't up to par, and that goes for everybody, the safeties and corners and linebackers. Too many guys wide open and there were some that were Josh's fault, some D.J. [Swearinger], there were some of everybody's fault, coaches, whatever it might be. But we've got to get it cleared up."

Norman appeared on "Dancing With the Stars" in the spring, commuting during the OTA sessions -- but making each practice. He told Yahoo! Sports earlier this week about his post-football plans to become an actor. During the Redskins' bye week, Norman flew to California to take part in preproduction work for a sitcom called "Taking ConTroll."

"I don't know what to say. I seen a little bit of what he said with Hollywood and I can say that's true -- I have went Hollywood," Norman said. "I've been Hollywood. Ever since I came out my mama's womb, I've been Hollywood. If they went right, I went left. That's just how we did. When the lights came on, that's just who we are."

Norman has appeared on Fox's pregame show at various times since arriving in Washington, such as during a bye week. There were questions at the time about how it might affect his play. For Norman, he views these opportunities as preparing for life after football.

"When it's football time, I'm going to do football," he said. "I'm going to be indulged in that. That is what we do. That's who we are. We work at that. We didn't get here by mistake. But outside of football? You're going to tell me I'm just supposed to do football outside of football? Or can I do something else? I don't know. I mean, I don't know if I'm supposed to live my life with a football helmet on when I retire from football."

Norman said he does these things because he can.

"A lot of people can't. So they don't. Or they're afraid. But I'm not, because I'm totally different from people," Norman said. "And if I'm different and if I feel like I want to do something, I'm going to do that. If you call that Hollywood, so be it. Guess what? I'll get my check from Hollywood. And I'll come back and I'll play ball. That's just what we do. I mean, I look at those things and I have to take into consideration, man, what's important to me. And this is first and foremost. This is first love, man. It's God, family and football. Nothing more, nothing less. And what I do outside of that is my extracurricular activities."

Norman became the NFL's highest-paid corner when he signed a five-year, $75 million deal with Washington in the 2016 offseason. He has been a solid player for the Redskins, but he hasn't intercepted a pass since Week 16 of the 2016 season and has two forced fumbles since the start of 2017. He counts more than any other cornerback against the salary cap this season at $16.737 million.

Norman played with Hall in 2016 and '17 and said the former corner/safety helped recruit him to Washington.

"D-Hall, he called me when I was coming from the Panthers and he spoke to me and was like, 'Come on J-No. Come over here, we've got everything set up,'" Norman said. "And it was crazy because, OK, I took the visit and the visit, I was on the plane with D-Hall. Brought me up, excited. We even did it, an interview as soon as I got here. I mean I looked up to D-Hall. I really do. I still do. I mean his kids looked up to me and I looked up to him. I just heard that and it was kind of like when a microphone is in your face after you leave here, I guess that song is true. 'Your smiling faces.'"

That song was called "Back Stabbers" by the O'Jays.

"I respect him and all he's done for this organization," Norman said of Hall. "Like I told you, I'm a hot button. If you're going to press it, you're going to get something out of it."

"I've been Hollywood. Ever since I came out my mama's womb, I've been Hollywood. If they went right, I went left. That's just how we did. When the lights came on, that's just who we are."
Redskins CB Josh Norman

Meanwhile, former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst, said Norman was the team's third-best corner behind Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau. But it's a sentiment shared by some in the organization, according to sources.

"If I am the third-best corner, guess what? I'm pretty sure those guys are going to be great," Norman said. "Those other two. I'm pumping up for them, I'm excited for what they are and what they can do and their abilities. If I'm slacking and if I'm that way, then guess what? Those guys, hey man, we're going to be a great football team. We're going to be a great secondary because I know what I can bring to the table. I know what those guys bring to the table."

There were no such complaints from his first team, the Carolina Panthers.

"Well, the biggest thing about Josh that we really appreciated was his work ethic first of all," coach Ron Rivera said. "He works as hard as anybody I've been around. Secondly, it's his personality. We had a little thing going during that Super Bowl run. I told the guys 'hey look, keep your personality, be who you are, but play within our core values.' And that was Josh. He kept his personality. He did the things that made Josh, Josh."

Earlier Wednesday on 102.5 The Fan in Charlotte, Norman went over his decision to tweet at Thomas. He later deleted the tweets.

"It was just like, do I even send this, like, do I even give this life?" Norman said. "And then I went to that Kanye West sunken place and I said, 'You know what, we're going to do it, just make our self feel a little bit better about this whole situation.' So we did, and I looked at it, whatever. I woke up [Tuesday] morning and took a shower and I just felt great, and looking at our record right now in the NFC East, we're No. 1 in our division. We've got so much life left, 12 weeks, to let this one thing get to us? No, man. We're so much bigger, our life is so much bigger than that, to give someone life. ... That's kind of how that went down. It was a waste of my time."