Asked Wednesday whether he needed to be cautious talking trash to Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, outspoken Redskins cornerback Josh Norman had a clear, emphatic reply.
"Nope," he said.
However, neither meastro of smack talk was ready to start a war of the words on Wednesday. The two spoke highly of each other and Smith downplayed their upcoming meeting.
The Ravens receiver and Redskins cornerback were teammates for two years with the Carolina Panthers in 2012 and 2013. And since both are highly competitive and not afraid to show it, they had some heated battles over the years at practice.
"It was very intense," Norman said. "If you do your research, you'll find out how intense they were."
Norman didn't elaborate.
"If he wants to bring it up, then I'll continue to chime in," he said. "If he gives you something, then I'll probably come back and give you something more."
Smith didn't talk about their practice battles, so here's the backstory (as far as what's public knowledge):
In 2012, Norman entered the NFL as an already uber-confident rookie. In his first summer in Organized Team Activities and minicamp, he spoke about how he stood toe-to-toe with Smith.
"He'd get frustrated," Norman said at the time. "He'd throw his hands in the air. He'd have a couple words."
Later that summer, Smith responded.
"For a young guy, he's coming out and he's playing well,'' Smith said. "But as far as swagger and how he loves to compete, I look at it like all the other veterans – May and June you just kind of cruise a little bit just to get through. Once late July, August comes, he's going to learn very quickly this isn't Coastal Carolina. I look forward to camp."
Last year, when Norman was in the midst of a strong season for the Super Bowl-bound Panthers, Smith joined ESPN's Mike & Mike and said, "[Norman's] a good player, he's not a great player."
Smith said he's not great because it was just Norman's fourth year in the league and first as a full-time starter. As a player who has done it for 16 years, Smith needed to see that level of play over a longer span before crowning him.
The two met once before as opponents in the 2014 "blood and guts" game in which Smith went off to the tune of 139 yards and two touchdowns. Norman was just a third cornerback then, and, according to Pro Football Focus, gave up just one catch of 10 yards to Smith. It was the only time Norman was in coverage when Smith was targeted with a pass.
The two will likely see each other a lot more this Sunday, though Norman said he didn't know yet whether he would be following Smith wherever he went. Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden also said he wouldn't know until later in the week. Norman was criticized for not following Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in Week 1.
Sunday will provide the next – and perhaps final – opportunity for the two players to square off. But neither player is providing bulletin board material.
Norman was asked whether the 37-year-old receiver, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, is still as good as ever.
"Shoot. His competitive drive is what makes him who he is," Norman said. "That's what makes him go. Obviously, you can see it on the field. He plays like a defensive player playing offense."
Norman said the two players have a "good relationship." He said the two had a conversation in Charlotte one time away from the game.
"I respect Steve," Norman said. "I don't have anything against him.
"He's doing what he always has been doing since he started playing ball: making plays and going out there and doing that little dance that he always does that I think is super funny. He did it in Carolina and he continues to do it there. His playmaking ability speaks for itself."
Speaking later, Smith also gave Norman his props.
"Josh Norman is a Pro Bowler," Smith said. "He is considered one of the few elite corners in the game. I just know him as Josh. I remember the young guy coming in. I kind of see him as a person, I don't really pay attention to all the other stuff."
Smith said he's going to have fun and just play ball. When asked if he expects their matchup to be "vocal," Smith said, "I plan to play my game like I always do."
"Me and him [went] back and forth in practice every day," Norman said. "Trust me, I'm very much a doctor in that."
It seems the two don't have beef heading into Sunday's game, and weren't going to be baited into it.
"My advice for everybody is private, not public," Smith said. "The only [public] advice I have for people is when they piss me off. This isn't a moment like that, so there is no need to make it about two individuals."