The Thanksgiving Day game that everybody was looking forward to between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington lived up to our expectations, with the Cowboys holding on for a 31-26 victory. What we didn’t know was that we were going to get some old-fashioned trash talk during and after the game thanks to the long-winded lungs of Dez Bryant and Josh Norman.
Both players have long been in the discussion for being among the best at their respective positions. Yet, the arguments for the league’s top player at any position has seemed to taper this season, with much of the focus revolving around the lack of fun in the NFL, mediocre games, and falling ratings. Thursday, they faced off in one of the NFL’s most historically revered rivalries, one that hasn’t had much flair, if any at all, in recent years.
We were treated to what seemed like a resurgence of that, and a big part of that was a war of words between the Cowboys wide receiver and the Washington cornerback.
Norman and Bryant’s trash talk started off playful.
But as the game wore on, things became increasingly heated, and by the time the fourth quarter arrived, referees had to visit each sideline to help diffuse the situation at hand.
At the end of the game, Bryant and Norman were getting in each other’s faces, and words were yet again exchanged.
Afterward both players had more to say when microphones and recorders were placed in front of them.
Bryant and Norman pulled no verbal punches after the game
Bryant started off hot. “First off,” he told reporters, “Washington needs to get their money back from Josh Norman.” This was undoubtedly a shot back at Norman, who had said that Dallas needed to get their money back from Bryant last season.
“I honestly feel like the guy is extremely soft,” Bryant said. “He’s a bunch of talk. If he was out and about, I wouldn’t dare on my life let him talk to me like that.”
“Those words would never come out of his mouth. I promise. I promise it wouldn’t. We got after that ass and it was a hell of a win. It feels good.”
Bryant also tweeted that throughout the week, he would be exposing Norman.
All through the week I will post film how Norman got exposed... https://t.co/WKWE9IdQYr— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) November 25, 2016
Norman told reporters that Bryant was the one who was seeking him at the end of the game. He alleged that Bryant told him, “Where I’m from, we unload the clip.”
“I played him three or four times now,” Norman said. “And those times, I don’t think he broke 30 yards, or had any significance of any kind in the game. Definitely didn’t have a touchdown.”
Bryant had a series of tweets afterward, and also denied what Norman said regarding the “unloading the clip” comment:
Honestly I can't believe he's on tv lien.. I have kids bra it's not that serious https://t.co/rGuinINfXT— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) November 25, 2016
Many of this can seem somewhat lame or childish to some, and that’s understandable. Bryant talked a big game for somebody who didn’t exactly torch the opposition, with five receptions for 72 yards, and two of them came against Norman for 19 yards.
But Norman was unreasonably losing his cool in the game. At one point he went out of his way to step over Ezekiel Elliott after being in a heated discussion with Bryant. It also took three officials to talk to Jay Gruden about Norman’s behavior, as opposed to just one who went to the Dallas sideline to warn about Bryant’s.
It was an entertaining game between two talented teams, and it felt like Bryant and Norman were only concerned about themselves, when guys like Elliott, Dak Prescott, Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, and Kirk Cousins all put on a show.
This was needed for the NFL and fans
With all of that said, this is happening at an opportune time for the NFL.
The ratings have been down this season, and many have speculated what the reasons for that could be. Competitive games always help, but when you really think about it, there aren’t many great rivalries in the NFL, whether that’s between players or teams. In this instance, it was two traditional rivals with two new-school players who are arguably the best at their respective positions.
With the presidential election behind us, and some good football — in what has seemed like a subpar season — since then, that’s been an obvious plus for the NFL. However, in a today’s NFL where we always see players from the bench, or even the league’s most elite, swapping jerseys it’s nice to see some competitive fire.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with exchanging jerseys, good sportsmanship, and a new breed of players showing respect for their opponents and a passion for the game.
But the NFL was sold on big hits and trash talk for a long time. The violence and rivalries were addictive. It’s a different game now, and if Bryant and Norman’s feud is our — and the NFL’s — only form of that throwback jawing, that might be all anybody needs.
The NFL would benefit from fans looking at any given Sunday’s slate of games, and saying to themselves, “I can’t wait to see these two guys go at it.” It’s part of the intrigue that keeps NBA fans tuning in night in and night out.
On one of the marquee days on the NFL schedule, they had an old rivalry between two good teams, and butting heads between two of the league’s biggest stars. The prospect of Bryant catching one on Norman on any given play kept the intrigue there throughout. There’s no question that commissioner Roger Goodell and others are elated with the Thursday afternoon delight that was on their televisions while enjoying their favorite meals.
For all we know, the Bryant and Norman feud could burn out quickly, and the rivalry between Dallas and Washington won’t pick up the spark it needs.
Yet, we’d all enjoy if something longer-lasting came from this. So would the NFL.