- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It’s been a rough 24 hours for Josh Norman.

First, the Redskins cornerback was briefly benched to start the second half in Monday’s 43-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Then, he got into a Twitter spat with Saints receiver Michael Thomas.

Now Norman has a former teammate questioning his commitment to the game.

In an interview with 106.7 The Fan, DeAngelo Hall, who retired in the offseason, said he thinks Norman is “in love with being a celebrity right now and not necessarily being a football player.”

Those are stunning words considering the two played together for two seasons.

DHall on Josh Norman… “in Love with Being a Celebrity” pic.twitter.com/tagb4KW9qO

When the Redskins signed Norman to a five-year, $75 million deal in 2016, he was considered an elite shutdown cornerback — perhaps the best in the game. And even as salaries continue to rise in the NFL, Norman is still the league’s highest-paid corner. 

But so far this season, Norman hasn’t produced at the same level in four games as he, coaches and fans are used to seeing. He was benched, in part, because he blew coverage on a 62-yard touchdown to Saints receiver Tre’Quon Smith — a game after he was part of a mixup against Green Bay’s Geronimo Allison, who broke free for a 64-yard score. 

Gruden has been reluctant to criticize Norman, and even after Monday’s loss, he told reporters “everything’s fine” and that the 30-year-old will play for the rest of the season. But the Redskins coach was still upset over a Norman gaffe that freed up Smith and allowed Drew Brees to break Peyton Manning’s record and become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage. 

“That can’t happen in pro football,” Gruden said of the defensive breakdown. “You don’t see that happen in pro football. We’re together too long. We run the same coverage for too many times. We’ve got to coach that better. We’ve got to make sure that never happens again. That’s an absolute embarrassment.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Norman has given up a passer rating of 156.3 when targeted this season, two points off from allowing a perfect rating of 158.3.

In the past, Norman took pride in the fact quarterbacks avoided throwing his way — even if that meant not recording interceptions, which he hasn’t since 2016. 

But if Norman’s poor play continues, quarterbacks will target him and potentially see him as a liability on the Redskins’ defense. 

Tsurhomas, too, seemed to indicate Norman was washed up as the two traded barbs on Twitter — calling him a “goof ball con artist.” 

“You 30 [years] old dude,” said Thomas, who had four receptions for 74 yards. “Life comes at you fast.”

While Norman might have lost his composure when interacting with Thomas, he kept his cool after Monday’s game as reporters pressed on his rough night. He said his benching was a coach’s decision and didn’t say anything noteworthy to escalate matters with Gruden. 

Gruden said Tuesday the secondary as a whole had to play better. Brees threw for 363 yards, a setback for the Redskins after they limited Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 265 in Week 3.

“Unfortunately, it’s one player and it’s not always the one guy everybody wants to point to, “Gruden said. “It’s happened to a couple other guys throughout the course of the first four games. We played pretty good. Our defense was ranked pretty high up until last night.”

Norman, though, will likely always draw most of the criticism, given his contract and the fact that he’s supposed to be a star for this defense — the latter which of has started to become a debate. 

During the “Monday Night Football” broadcast, ESPN analyst Booger MacFarland remarked that Quinton Dunbar, not Norman, was the best cornerback on the Redskins. Last week, NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly referred to Norman as the “third-best” corner, as well.

His off-the-field interests, too, have been cited by some to explain why he isn’t the same player — something Hall did on Tuesday

Norman hasn’t been shy about his willingness to pursue other areas outside of football. During the Redskins’ bye week, he spent an afternoon in Los Angeles as an analyst for FOX’s “NFL Sunday.” He has also done considerable charity work, donating money to Hurricane Maria victims and helping migrant families.

Norman, too, was recently featured in a Yahoo Sports article that detailed his passion for acting and producing. In May, the cornerback finished second in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” 

It’s hard to say how much any of that has had an impact on Norman’s play. But if his play doesn’t improve, expect the scrutiny to intensify.

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