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The Washington Redskins were back to work on Wednesday, but one player wasn’t on the field with them.
Only a few days after making controversial comments regarding his future with the franchise, cornerback Josh Norman missed practice on Wednesday, instead riding a stationary bike off to the side. Norman was not listed on the injury report, with head coach Jay Gruden saying it was a “rest day” for the beleaguered cornerback.
“Maybe a little wear and tear,” Gruden said after practice. “I don’t think it’s anything serious. More of a rest day for Josh, so to speak. But he is a little sore.”
Norman himself insisted that nothing was wrong health wise, doubling down on his comments that the team needs to get back to winning ways, and do it quickly.
“We’ve got to win. That’s all that matters,” Norman said. “Nothing changes other than doing what we’re supposed to do, doing what we’re asked to do, doing what we’re coached to do.”
Part of the frustration with Norman has been the Redskins’ decision to not allow him to shadow opposing team’s best wide receivers. Gruden explained why Norman, who has shadowed wideouts at times this season, has no longer being so, pointing to communication and continuity on the defensive side of the ball as the reasons behind him playing to one side in recent weeks.
“He’s a corner, that’s what position he plays,” Gruden said. “The majority of NFL teams have two or three really good receivers, and a lot of times you start trying to run around and matching with one guy, then everybody else has to get set on their guys and it creates confusion.”
The ‘Dark Knight’ signed a $75 million contract with the Redskins in 2016, making him the highest paid cornerback in the entire league. The mega-deal came on the heels of his stellar 2015 season, in which he was given All-Pro honors. The deal was met primarily with elation, and through his first season, he gave fans little reason to feel anything else.
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Norman kept up with his pace set in 2015 in 2016, locking down receivers left and right whilst notching three interceptions and a whopping 19 pass deflections. Heading into 2017, there was little reason for skepticism. Norman was coming back to an even better defense, and he appeared to have great chemistry with safety D.J. Swearinger. And even through the start of the 2017 season, he played rather well.
But as the season has played out, Norman has gotten worse. Much worse. It started against the Vikings, when Case Keenum burned him countless times with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and it came to an unforgiving climax last Sunday, when Phillip Rivers and the Chargers tore apart the Redskins’ secondary, with Josh Norman giving up touchdown receptions to both Tyrell Williams and Keenan Allen.
A few weeks ago, after the Vikings game, it would have been reasonable to dismiss the subpar performance as one in a million. But now, Norman has strung together several clunkers, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever recover from this stint in Washington that is growing more and more toxic by the second. Norman himself voiced his discontent with the situation after the Chargers game, per Kimberly Martin of the Washington Post, and he even alluded to leaving the team if things did not get better.
I came here to win a championship. If we’re not doing that, what are we doing? Why are we here? Because I’m not going to be a part of something that’s not going to go forward and win a championship,” Norman said. “That’s serious. I don’t care about the money, I don’t care about the fame, I don’t care about anything. The only thing I care about is that ring. You can strip me however you want to; strip all the titles I have to my name. If I don’t win a championship, that means it’s all for nothing.
Norman’s current contract expires in 2020, but there is a clause that allows Norman to opt out after this season, if he so chooses. While it’s hard to imagine him making such a rash decision after a season marred by injuries and a heavyweight schedule, it might not be the worst idea. For Norman, or for the Redskins.
Norman turns 30 years old in three days. Historically, cornerbacks fall off, in terms of performance, after they stray outside of their twenties. Whether it be injuries or just their body slowing up, cornerbacks aren’t often the same when they get to be that age. And Norman was good for a while, but he’s not anywhere near the territory of Mike Haynes and Charles Woodson, who both had their best years in their thirties. He recently gave up his first 100 yard game of his career. And he didn’t look good doing it.
Is Norman regressing, or will we see him bounce back next year? And what does this mean for Washington? While we can speculate for the time being, the fact of the matter is that later days will yield the answer to us. For now, all we can do is sit by and hope that Norman finishes the 2017 campaign on a higher note.