Washington cornerback Josh Norman was benched for the start of the second half of Monday night’s loss to the Saints, for reasons that weren’t publicly explained. Now an explanation has emerged: Norman put on headphones at halftime, and didn’t take them off when coach Jay Gruden addressed the team.
That’s the word from Kevin Sheehan, former longtime host of the team’s pregame show, who said on his podcast that the benching was about Norman’s behavior in the locker room at halftime and not his play on the field.
“The reason Josh Norman was benched for the start of the second half against the Saints had very little to do with him getting lost in coverage,” Sheehan said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “At halftime, according to my source, he put his headphones on while the coaches were addressing the team. Jay Gruden told him to take them off. He either didn’t hear Jay or he ignored him, but with that, I was told, the headphones were removed. By whom? My source says that he believes it was Gruden who removed the headphones from Norman’s head. But regardless, Gruden benched him to start the third quarter, and that was the reason why. My source also tells me that there is not a lot of good vibes when it comes to Norman among several of the coaches right now. Not much they can do about it.”
That the coaches can’t do much about it is a result of Norman’s contract: He’s in the third year of a five-year, $75 million contract, and if they were to cut him this season his dead cap would be $22.3 million.
But it sounds like the coaches would cut Norman if they could. John Keim of ESPN reported that Norman’s benching “was definitely something between Gruden and Norman that got a little heated and definitely not because of him getting beat in coverage.” In other words, the fact that Norman did not play well was not even the biggest problem, in the minds of the coaching staff.
Washington will host Carolina on Sunday, which means Norman is facing his old team. He should be motivated personally, and Washington should be motivated by the fact that a win will put them in first place in the NFC East. A big game from Norman in a win would go a long way toward cleaning up what now looks like a mess.