In a Redskins season bizarrely short on compelling story lines, the heavens have given us DeAngelo Hall and Josh Norman, whose media back and forth has now lasted the better part of a week, and has managed to be genuinely interesting without descending into nastiness.
“I’m feeling some kind of way right now,” an amused Hall said Thursday on 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes program, responding to Norman, who had previously responded to Hall, and it will be hard for Sunday to match this.
“I don’t feel like anything I’ve said thus far has been anything that I wouldn’t have said if I was sitting still in that locker room, doing an open locker room interview right there beside him,” Hall said of Norman. “I would say the exact same thing, and I would say it the exact same way, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m 100 percent correct in saying that.”
So what did he actually say? Hang on. Let’s first recap, for those too distracted by D.C. United’s playoff push:
1) Norman spent (some small part) of his offseason on “Dancing With the Stars,” and (some small part) of his bye week in California working on a TV pilot, which, for better or worse, do seem to be celebrity-esque pursuits.
2) Norman was then (briefly) benched during a blowout loss against the Saints, when Drew Brees threw for 700 or so yards. Hey look! There’s a Saints receiver I’ve never heard of! He’s still open! Oh well.
3) Hall, in the first days of his new career as a (very, very, very, very good) talking head, made the following observation the next morning, as notable for its bluntness concerning a former teammate as it was for its ring of validity:
“It comes a point where you just gotta play football,” Hall said. “Josh is, I think, in love with being a celebrity right now and not necessarily being a football player. Josh needs to kind of refocus, get back on the grind, get back to the basics technique-wise and really work, because he’s not going to live off the reputation of being Josh Norman. Teams are starting to go at him and he’s either going have to make plays, or somebody else is going to get an opportunity to play. I think we’ve seen the coaching staff kind of take that approach. There’s no coming back from being benched. That already happened, he knows it, the team knows it, the outside world knows it. For him, he has to get focused on just playing football and playing to the best of his ability.”
DeAngelo Hall, on 106.7 The Fan
For whatever else you think about that quote, it single-handedly justifies 106.7 The Fan’s decision to hire Hall. Good quote, from a good talker, about a (very recently) ex-teammate.
4) Norman, the next day, was asked to respond.
“I can say that’s true,” Norman said. “I have went Hollywood. I’ve been Hollywood. Ever since I came out of my mama’s womb, I’ve been Hollywood. Everybody went right; I went left. That’s just how we did. When lights came on, that’s just who we are.”
Norman also said that Hall helped recruit him to Washington, that he did (and does) look up to Hall, and that he has a relationship with Hall’s kids. And he seemed a bit taken aback by Hall’s comments.
"I heard that, and it’s kind of like when a microphone’s in your face after you leave here, I guess that song is true, ‘Smiling Faces,’ " Norman said. “It’s just quite an experience. It was shocking to me as well, but like I said, I respect him and all he’s done for this organization. . . . So it is what it is. Like I told you, I’m a hot button, so if you’re gonna press it, you’re gonna get something out of it.”
If you’ve forgotten, “that song” includes lyrics like “smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend” and “beware of the handshake that hides the snake.” This is so good!
And so now, back to Hall.
“I heard Josh say a lot, but I didn’t really hear anything,” Hall told Dukes on Thursday, after listening back to Norman’s remarks. “Like, I heard a lot, but I didn’t really hear much from what he said, besides the end part that kind of got me was him saying, ‘Well, you know, you put a mic in a guy’s face. . . .’ I don’t know what that’s implying, but anything I’m saying on the mic, I’ll say to your face. I’ll call you. If you want me to call you, I’ll call you."
“I don’t feel like I need to, but I will if that’s what you want me to do,” Hall went on. “Like I said, I’m at Redskins Park right now. He’ll probably walk out at any moment and see me sitting right here. I’m always up here. And so I’m not saying something and going to hide under a rock. I’m saying it and I’ll look you in your face, and I’ll see you on Sunday, because I’ll be at the game, too.”
“So nothing I’ve ever said has been from a place of malice,” Hall said. “It’s been from a place of, look man, I know you can get back to where you want to be as a player, because right now, like, teams are going to try you, man. And you being benched is just adding fuel to the fire. Whether it was on purpose or not — a lot of people don’t know how that [benching] transpired — but it happened, they’re past that now. And I don’t want to harp on that, but it happened and let’s see what happens because of that. Let’s see how we move forward.”
Hall was actually overwhelmingly sympathetic, saying it’s true that he helped recruit Norman to D.C., that it’s true they became close, that it’s true Hall’s kids look up to Norman, and that “it’s nothing but respect and love . . . and admiration and wanting to see this dude succeed.”
“But at the same time, I’ve played the game, so I understand it’s not the end of the world at all,” Hall said of Norman’s benching. “And like I said, it’s not even my opinion. Like, the world saw Josh get benched. It wasn’t me saying, ‘Oh, he’s playing bad, we gotta get him out of there.’ I’m reacting to what I saw. I’m reacting to what happened and I’m giving my opinion on ‘Hey look, I think he’s worried about other things as opposed to playing football.’ And, ultimately, if he gets back to playing football and locks in, he’s such a competitor, I know he can get back to where he wants to be.”
That’s . . . a reasonable opinion. As is the question of whether Norman has been distracted by some of his outside pursuits. Somehow, though, that morphed into this use of the word Hollywood, which is now connoting things other than the actual Hollywood, and that led to this.
“You know, I was a teammate of this guy for two years,” Hall said. “And that’s the thing, too, man. Josh said in his comments, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I am Hollywood. I was born Hollywood.’ Yeah . . . you really weren’t born Hollywood. Like, you weren’t like a Hollywood dude until you kind of got put on, you know what I mean? Until Odell (Beckham) and you went through y’all’s thing. And you kind of got the name and got the fame from that.”
“Like, you’re not a guy who was a five-star kid, who took a scholarship to the SEC, who played right away, who was a first-round draft pick, who from day one was the guy,” Hall said. “To me, that’s the dudes who’ve been Hollywood since they’ve come out the womb, not the guys who’ve worked and grinded and put in that time to be great, and worked on their craft.
“Which, ain’t nothing wrong with that. I respect those dudes more than the dudes who’ve had it from day one. I respect the dudes who worked their butt off and grinded to become a great player. . . . And that’s Josh’s M.O. He grinded, he put in the time. He wasn’t a dude who was highly recruited out of high school, you know, a high draft pick, [who] played from day one in Carolina. He was a guy who grinded and worked his butt off to get where he is. I mean, I love that about him.
“I’ll take a dude who’s uber competitive over a dude who’s talented and ain’t got no dog in him every day of the week. And that’s why I rock with Josh. Because I know at the end of the day, he’s going to fight. He’s going to fight. I just want him to fight and focus a little more, that’s all.”
Both men apparently love each other; so much so, I’d venture, that this back and forth is likely to end now. Which should put the focus back on the football field this weekend. Hope the football field can deliver something as compelling.
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