- - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There was nothing social about Josh Norman’s post-game comments about the officiating in the Washington Redskins‘ 27-27 tie Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals in London.

No, he went old school on official Brad Freeman. He spoke his mind publicly after getting called for five penalties while covering All-World wide receiver A.J. Green.

“Who is 88?” Norman asked reporters following the game, seeking out the identity of his tormentor. “I just got to know. Who is official 88? He sucked. Just to be honest with you. I’m going to be straight forward. He was terrible and I feel like he should be reprimanded.

“I am baffled by it, to the point where all my teammates are feeling like that, I speak on it.”

Oh, so he was speaking out for his teammates.

Seems like they have no problem speaking for themselves, though — whether it’s criticizing officials, their coaches or fans.

“It’s hard to beat a team and the refs, man,” said defensive tackle Chris Baker following Washington’s 23-20 win over Philadelphia. “Those refs were calling some terrible calls.”

Three weeks earlier, Baker might have said the same thing about his coaches after a sideline shouting match for all to see in the Redskins 29-27 win over the Giants.

Bashaud Breeland’s issue wasn’t with the referees or coaches following Sunday’s tie with Cincinnati. Apparently, his beef was with fans on social media.

“Im convince a lot of people talk ball but don’t really know what the (blank) there talking about real talk!” the Redskins cornerback wrote on his Twitter account. “I bet ull miss me when I’m gone.”

This may crush Breeland, but more than a thousand players have come and gone in the Redskins locker room since this team last won a Super Bowl. I doubt that fans miss more than a handful.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden is walking a tightrope here. He defended Norman Monday in a conference call with reporters, as well he should. He has to stand by his players, especially the ones with the biggest paychecks.

Josh is his own man and he really speaks his mind and he just felt strongly about the way he felt and he put it out there.” Gruden said. “So he was frustrated after the game. It’s one thing to have one or two calls, but he had quite a few on him that were, you know, that could have gone either way quite frankly. But it’s going to be hard to put a filter on Josh. He’s very passionate about the game. He’s a great player, I love his energy, I love what he brings to this football team. He’s one of the greatest competitors on this team that I’ve seen in a long time and I will not take that away from him.”

That’s fine while this team is winning, or at least treading water, with a 4-3-1 record going into the bye week. But if things turns south, you have the feeling that the Redskins sideline will turn into a Jerry Springer set — complete with a lot of mind-speaking and Twittering and finger pointing.

It will be hard to put a filter on that.

This all may be beyond Gruden’s control — a symptom of 2016, when every athlete has a soapbox right at his fingers to right every wrong and fight every slight.

Speaking of slights, football officials are human beings. The crews that work the Minnesota game on Nov. 13 at FedEx Field and beyond probably will include friends of Brad Freeman. If they weren’t targeting Josh Norman before, they probably will now.

“As far as him being targeted, he probably is a little bit but he’s going to have to deal with it and work on his hand placement and just continue to work and get better and better, but he’s a great player and I love his passion,” Gruden said.

Norman may particularly want to work on his hand placement when the ball hits them — as it did three times Sunday, with no interceptions to show for it.

As Norman so eloquently put it, that sucked.

If the $75 million cornerback is still baffled about why officials were watching him closely Sunday, he might want to revisit his pre-game declarations.

“I’ve faced everything,” Norman told reporters before the Bengals game. “You get those short receivers like A.B. and Odell. They chop you up and then you get the big monsters in here — Pryor and other guys and now A.J. coming in. It’s a bit of a change-up. You’ve got to change your game up. You can’t play big guys like you do short guys. You’ve got to dig deep and let him come to you — and be physical and don’t get posted up.”

This may be hard to believe, but NFL officials read too.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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