Despite the fact that they now play for two different teams, Josh Norman and Cam Newton remain very close. In four seasons together in Carolina, the two established a bond that hasn't broken, even after Norman signed with the Redskins last spring, and, in fact, has extended to the basketball court.
As the Redskins prepare to take on the Panthers this Monday night, and as Norman ruminates about his abrupt departure from Carolina and his impending reunion with former teammates, he's also had time to recall his pick-up basketball games between him and his brothers and Newton, his brother, and cousins.
The competitive nature Newton has admired in the cornerback is just as visible when playing hoops. Norman and his brothers have become adept at playing as a family unit – they even have team jerseys and nicknames -- something Norman said Newton and his crew hasn't exactly mastered just yet.
"He knows when the spotlight is on and he's going to try and do his best," Norman said of Cam. "But I can go back and take it into any other sense. For him, his cousins, and his brothers – Big Cecil – they like to play me and my brothers on the offseason. He's like so-called LeBron James of his team and we're like synchronized swimmers on our team. We run plays and do everything just like we're coached to do, and we beat their tail every single time."
"[Laughter] Listen here, man, at the end of the day, I feel as if it's a pending season," Newton told local reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. "It's not over yet. Body composition is very important when we're talking about playing against 'DB-like' players, and you have got another offensive line-like team with a God-type figure, but I can only do but so much. I have got other guys."
Newton boasted about his "LeBron James-like" skills, saying that he can play with anyone and put the team on his back, but Norman and his brothers are often the ones that come out on top. That's forced Newton to play other kinds of games in an attempt to keep the winning percentage even.
"So, little 'Bron out here, but don't have a team," Norman said. "So it's kind of hard for him to win if you don't. So, therefore, I take solace in understanding that we kick butt and we will again this year when we go and play each other this summer."
The fiery competition spilled over into confrontation one day during Panthers training camp last year, just an example of the way that two players with immense passion for the game can butt heads with the same common goal.
It was another example of how these two love going against each other.
"The thing that people don't realize is, when you talk about great teams, when you talk about great players, they challenge each other," Newton said. "For them, for everyone to realize…I'm pretty sure Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen got into it; obviously Shaq and Kobe. LeBron probably got into it with a lot of his players; Peyton, Tom and those guys. Mine was just the only time where social media was really blasting at the time and one little picture just took over. But before practice even ended, we had already made up and I told him if it takes me doing that, I'll do it again for me to get the best out of him, And I would expect nothing less for him to do the same for me. And he went out there and had an All-Pro season."
That's why Norman expects to be targeted by Newton this Monday, even if his reads don't always dictate good outcomes.
"I hope so," Norman said of having the ball being thrown in his direction. "The competitor in him… Well, it's two things. Cam, the coach tell him no. Cam, the competitor, yes. So I'm looking for that guy. Just like practice."
Asked whether Norman has a sport in which he isn't strong, Newton just grasped for an answer.
"If you ask Josh that, Josh is probably going to tell you that he doesn't have a sport that he isn't good at," Newton said. "I don't know, man. Let's just say a spelling bee [laughter]."