Last week, Rodney Harrison said on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk that Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is: (1) one of the best cornerbacks in the game; and (2) not good enough to shut down Falcons receiver Julio Jones. Norman, ignoring the compliment and focusing on the insult, hurled back only and insult, calling Harrison “horrible at his job.”
The back-and-forth has continued in the aftermath of Carolina’s 38-0 win over Atlanta, with Rodney reiterating his views on Jones and Norman and Norman reiterating his views on Rodney in separate Monday comments to Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.
“Before [Norman] sits there and he rips me and says I’m horrible at my job, which is very disrespectful, he needs to shut up and make sure he reads the entire quote,” Harrison said. “That’s what he needs to do. That’s being professional.”
Said Norman: “You are an analyst and that means reporting the truth, not some mythological thing that you have in your head that’s not factual information. . . . That’s why I say you are horrible at it. . . . If you had done your homework, you would have seen I played [Julio Jones] twice last year and it was the same outcome. So I don’t know what you want to see that I haven’t done.”
Harrison realizes that the venom from Norman is natural, given his age and experience level.
“[T]hey become very emotional,” Rodney said of young players. “I was the same. . . . I was a fifth-round draft choice. I was Josh Norman. I get it, and I respect it. … I’ve been there. He’s trying to get where I’ve been. I’ve played in Pro Bowls and I’ve been All-Pro and all those different things. So I’ve been a fifth-rounder just like him, overshadowed, people talking you down, not getting the credit.”
Rodney also encouraged Norman to continue to keep the chip on his shoulder.
“That’s why I love the kid,” Rodney said. “And ultimately that will keep him at the level that he’s playing at. Because if there’s any advice I would give him [it is] ‘Keep that. Even when you get that $60-$70 million contract you’re going to get in the next year or two, keep that. When you keep that, it separates you from everyone else. And that’s going to be your edge. That’s going to be your work ethic.”
Norman was nevertheless less than gracious regarding Rodney’s praise.
“The thing is he has no choice but to give me that,” Norman said. “Look at the numbers. They speak for themselves. . . . The facts are the facts, the proof is in the pudding. How can I not be [the best cornerback in the NFL]?”
On Tuesday, Rodney elaborated on his views during an appearance on WEEI.
“I don’t give a damn about Josh Norman and what he thinks about me,” Rodney said. “He’s playing football. Everything that he’s trying to do, I’ve done. I’ve been in the Pro Bowl. I’ve been All-Pro. I’ve played in Super Bowls. I don’t care about that. I’ve made money. So I’m not worried about what Josh Norman thinks of me. If he wants to use that as motivation, that’s fine. I hope he goes on and has a successful career. I want to see young men make it. . . . If he wants to make it personal, I’m not afraid of Josh Norman. We can always buckle up in the boxing ring and have a match. And once I know him out, then I’ll get up and give him a cold iced tea. It’s all good.”
It’s all good — and it would be great if the two of them got together to discuss their differences, with or without a boxing ring.
Ultimately, the root of the problem isn’t what Rodney said; it’s that he’s willing to say something other than only positive things about players.
“At the end of the day, there’s a job to be done, and I’m not going to sit here and try to befriend these guys,” Rodney told WEEI. “My job and my loyalty is to the fans. Because they deserve to hear the truth and truly what’s going on. In too many of these pregame shows, you’ve got guys trying to be buddy-buddy with everybody, and you don’t get the full truth. You get guys [saying], ‘Oh, he’s great, he’s this, he’s that.’ No, he sucks. Why don’t you say it? Why are you afraid to say that he stinks? What are you afraid to say that it’s a bad coaching decision? That’s what people want to hear. People don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, he’s the best, he’s this, he’s that.’ Screw that. I’m not that guy.”
So what is Norman’s overall assessment of Rodney?
“I think he’s a bitter old guy, man,” Norman told Fowler on Monday. “I’m sorry to say it, but it’s real. . . . We don’t have to care for each other. I’m in Charlotte. You’re broadcasting wherever you’re at, wishing you could probably play again.”
In a text message to PFT, Rodney said, “I’m not a bitter old man. I’m having fun getting his attention every week.”
Rodney also added that, even though Norman claims that Rodney wishes he was still playing, Rodney turned down an eight-figure contract in his 15th year because he had accomplished everything he had set out to do in football.
Luckily for the fans, Rodney is accomplishing something too few former players are willing to try to do: He’s telling the truth, providing genuine assessments, and not shying away from anyone who has a problem with anything Rodney says.