Norman & Bryant Approaching Marquee Matchup With Mutual Respect

FRISCO, Texas – It'd be hard to judge who's more eager for another opportunity to prove himself – Dez Bryant or Josh Norman.

They're two of the most exciting and polarizing players in the NFL, and they're two of the best-paid players in the NFC East. Despite playing completely opposite positions, they also can't stop answering questions about why they were so quiet in Week 1.

"I just know how the game goes man," Bryant said. "Of course, I want passes and all that stuff, but it's more than me. You know would I love to feel it, of course I would. At the same time, I know my time is coming."

Bryant told reporters that on Thursday afternoon, but it sounded awfully similar to Norman's media session in Washington on Wednesday.

Whereas Bryant was held to one catch on five targets last week, Norman had the opposite problem. While the All-Pro corner limited Antonio Brown to no catches on his two opportunities, he had to watch helplessly while teammate Bashaud Breeland surrendered eight receptions for 126 yards and two scores.

That simple fact has prompted a firestorm of questioning: if Norman is being paid $75 million to play cornerback, why wouldn't he handle the opponent's best receiver?

With all the questions he's faced about traveling, you'd think Norman is on the visiting team this weekend.

"Whether I'm traveling, not traveling, one side, left side – who really cares, man? Let's just get the job done," he said. "Whoever gets the job done, so be it, man. All this talk about 'This guy matches up with that guy' – who really frickin' cares? If you come out with a W and you win the game, all of that is really hogwash."

It sounds awfully similar to the talking points coming out of Texas. Bryant finished with just the one reception, but he had a 24-yard touchdown catch overturned by review – along with a handful of other opportunities.

Part of that is the limitation of not wanting Dak Prescott to force his way into any mistakes, but offensive coordinator Scott Linehan allowed that there's more to be done to include Bryant in the offense.

"We missed a big opp that would've been a big part of the game with the overturned touchdown, so I think things would've felt different," he said. "But we certainly want to involve him in the mainframe of our offense and the passing game more than we were able to last week."

With both franchises facing the possibility of an 0-2 start, it feels like a safe bet that both coaching staffs will be trying to rectify the ills of Week 1. Asked about it on Thursday afternoon, Linehan said he expects to see Norman follow Bryant around the formation at least some of the time.

Bryant declined to offer a preference on the issue, but he said he'll be ready for whatever Washington's defensive game plan looks like.

"I want the challenge just like he wants the challenge," he said. "It's going to be fun game Sunday – mutual respect from each other. We're just going to go out there and put on a good game. It's not about me or him. It's about each other's team."

That's an interesting quote, considering this pair's meeting on Thanksgiving last season. After holding a hobbled Bryant to just 26 yards on two catches, Norman joked to reporters that the wide out should have to give his $70 million contract back.

Whatever their relationship is now, though, it seems to have cooled considerably. Norman joked this week that he is sure Bryant is eager to get him back for last year's game, but that there's no animosity between them.

"We don't look at it as no kind of disrespect, we look at it as respect – knowing that two dogs gonna see each other," Norman said. "It's not just two individuals, but it's the Washington Redskins versus the Dallas Cowboys."

Someone asked Bryant if the two players had become "frenemies," which he acknowledged might be fair. But however desperately they might want to beat each other, Bryant repeated that mantra of respect.

"It's the nature of football. You're going to have that passion. You're going to have that fight. You're going to have that dog," he said. "It's all part of the game. That's what makes you. He has that and I have that and we're just going to go out there and battle."

At the very least, Norman's arrival in Washington should add another fun wrinkle to what has been a closely-contested rivalry the past few years. The teams have split their matchups the past two seasons, just as they've won the past two NFC East titles.

Hopefully for both teams' sakes, each player plays a bigger factor this time around.

"We play for division teams, so of course he's going to hold it down for his squad. I'm going to hold it down for mine," Bryant said. "At the end of the game, we're going to shake hands and talk about how we did in the game and go the other way."

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