For the second straight season, Josh Norman will face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, where he hopes to help even the teams' series rivalry.
Normally for Thanksgiving, cornerback Josh Norman will hold hands with family members around the table, each will say what they are grateful for, recite some bible verses and scripture and bow their heads for a prayer. Then, Norman must fight with his older brothers to get the first helping of food, a spread of southern dishes Norman said would take all day to list.
For the second straight season, however, Norman will have to forgo those traditions to play a football game in Dallas, a tradition of its own sort. Last year when he did so, with the Panthers, Carolina remained undefeated, holding the Cowboys to 14 points while Norman held wide receiver Dez Bryant to just two catches and 26 yards.
This Thursday, Norman will return to Dallas as a member of the Redskins with a taste of this NFC East rivalry already on his palette, when the Redskins lost to the Cowboys in Week 2. Following the victory over the Packers Sunday night, Norman said he heard fans chanting "We Want Dallas" in the stands, an indication of how seriously the fan base takes these matchups that he's still getting used to.
"I was like, cool y'all go up there and take them on," Norman said. "See them up in the stands cheering that, too. I don't know man, I was in the NFC South for a long time and now coming over here, the NFC East is big. It's like football is a higher step up. It's kinda like, geez, these guys have the rivalry for ages. Since I was born, my grandfather and all that, back in the day, it's like geez the history of that, just so old and you want to live in that moment, because your children's children are going to talk about the game."
Norman jokingly hypothesized that kids from future generations would remember this Thanksgiving game as one in which he would return an interception for a touchdown and throw up the "X," Bryant's signature celebratory gesture.
"It's jokes," he clarified.
"I have a higher respect and admiration for those guys over there," Norman said. "Dez, of course, [Dak] Prescott and the running back [Elliott], just the whole squad over there, I think I really do admire those guys. I'm looking forward to it, I think everybody is. It's not a thing of hate, not gotten to a point where I hate anybody, yet. So hopefully I don't get on that side and go Dark Knight."
As for his particular matchup with Bryant, who lined up with cornerback Bashaud Breeland for the majority of September's game, Norman didn't offer too much besides some platitudes.
"I think sure, everyone is well aware of [our matchup]," Norman said, "I'm sure he is too. I'm sure he's looking forward to it, just as much as we are and everybody else. So I guess it's going to be exciting."
Even with a short week, and the challenge of recovering even quicker coming off a Sunday night game, Norman is confident his team will be ready to play.
From his experience last year playing in what he calls "wonder world," the cornerback enjoys the big stage and admitted that the persona speaking with the throng of media by his locker wasn't the same one that emerges between the white lines.
"It's theatrics. Everything goes into hyping up what people want to see in this game, whatever," Norman said. I look at it as once I'm on that football field, I'm someone else. Who? I can't tell you, because I don't know...But I'm going to put everything I have on the line and if it got to go into the fifth quarter, if it's overtime, shoot let's go there, too. I'm going to be spent before I leave that football field, knowing that I gave everything I have and my teammates as well into trying to get a victory. There's nothing more that matters."