New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman made headlines last season after a late December matchup between the two turned into a nasty altercation. The outcome resulted in heavy fines for both players and a suspension for Beckham the following weekend.

Odell Beckham Jr - Josh Norman

(Left) NFL football players Odell Beckham Jr., of the New York Giants, (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP); and Washington Redskins’ cornerback Josh Norman. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Discover Boating)

Norman turned the attention from the scuffle, combined with a Super Bowl appearance and a stellar 2015 campaign, into a five-year, $75 million deal with Washington to headline their secondary—and face Beckham twice each season. The insertion of Norman into the NFC East sparked a lot of anticipation, which only gained steam this week with Norman and Beckham verbally sparring in the media. In a recent interview with GQ, Beckham said “the reason he’s (Norman) become so relevant is because of me.”

Norman issued a rebuttal last week, telling Business Insider “There’s a time when people who honor themselves will fall short.” With the NFL season more than a month away, the feud between the two players could have heavy ramifications in the division. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate whether the rivalry is detracting from Washington’s attempt to repeat as division champs?

Riley: It’s all about relevancy and there’s nothing making more headlines in the NFC East than the spewing between the two parties. It was almost fitting that Norman joined the division to square off against Beckham twice a year after last season’s melee at MetLife Stadium. Washington has a lot of factors going into the season, from Kirk Cousins’ contract to the constant controversy over the team’s name, all while trying to defend their division title. For owner Daniel Snyder, any news is good news and Washington will hopefully profit from one of the biggest stars in the NFL having personal issues with one of the players on Snyder’s roster. Distraction? No. Publicity? Yes.

Green: For a team trying to make back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1992, “focus” needs to be the word spread throughout the locker room. The drama between Norman and Beckham is good for the tabloids, but it’s a distraction for the rest of the team and the exact reason why Norman was a lightning rod for controversy last year. The outspoken cornerback has size, ball skills and talent, but the negativity that derived from that late December game last season could have clouded Carolina’s championship chase if not for the fairytale season that Cam Newton had. Granted, Norman didn’t seek drama with Beckham, but his actions from last season ruffled a lot of feathers, including Beckham’s. This is a crucial season for Washington with Cousins’ one-year franchise tender the talk of the town, and the division ripe for the taking. The season hasn’t even started yet and we’re still talking about Norman’s antics from last season. Not good for Washington.

Riley: The fact that so much is at stake could make Norman’s presence a blessing in disguise. Norman isn’t the first controversial cover corner to switch teams and bring controversy. Deion Sanders, Darrell Revis and Aqib Talib have all been “hired guns” that changed teams and tilted title chances for their new organizations. They also brought attention, whether it was good or bad. Norman’s braggadocio and the raging opinions surrounding him should give the media in Washington, D.C. something else to talk about besides the team’s name changing, or whether or not Cousins lands a contract at the end of the season. It’s the middle of the summer with football a while away. A little war of words between two guys who will square off with each other one-on-one twice a year is only good for business.

Green: Maybe I’m biased, because I don’t like controversial players who transition to new teams and make headlines before they’ve made a play. Norman’s arrival in Washington signals a return to an era in the District that the team was trying to escape. The team was pressed to get Robert Griffin III out of town because he made more locker room noise than plays, and his benching two years ago was supposed to eliminate the primadonnas from the roster. Despite his talent, Norman gives off a lot of bad press. Washington has a lot at stake this season and any more headliners could start to become a nagging problem.


Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk