ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Dez Bryant and Josh Norman have exchanged some not-so-friendly words, some bumps and some shoves.
Maybe before they face off Sunday, they’ll exchange a couple of notes on their cell phones.
The Dallas Cowboys’ top receiver and Washington Redskins’ top cornerback developed a heated rivalry on and off the field over the past year, but tensions have cooled a bit since they starred in dueling cell phone ads.
Their contention stems from a physical meeting last Thanksgiving. Norman at one point said Bryant is “just a guy” and Bryant responded by calling Norman “soft” as their war of words bled over into the offseason.
Then all of a sudden, they were in something together. Bryant called Norman to talk about the cell phone commercials they agreed to do about each other.
“We had talked a little bit,” Norman said. “That was kind of refreshing because before it wasn’t like that.”
Bryant now considers Norman and him “frenemies” after their commercials in which they poke fun at each other. In one ad, Bryant posts a drawing of Norman riding a snail and another of him as a tiny blanket, while in the other , Norman draws Bryant with sticks of butter for hands and a message saying, “I am better than Dez Bryant.”
Neither one says a bad word as they’re interviewed, letting the phone messages serve as the trash talk.
“I think it’s accurate,” Bryant said. “It’s good how we can do something, make something fun out of it and give people something fun to look at it. But at the same time, it’s still competitive, if that makes sense? I think that’s the cool thing about the commercial. We get to show our competitive side and our fun side at the same time.”
Bryant and Norman don’t lack anything on the competitive side, so much that coaches Jason Garrett and Jay Gruden this week were asked about keeping their players under control. Gruden doesn’t want to take anything away from Norman’s personality, figuring it’s part of what makes him a top-flight defender.
“Those are two very competitive guys,” Gruden said. “I don’t know Dez, but they seem like they are very similar, very fiery type guys: want to win, want to produce, want to be in the limelight and make plays and they both have done that in their careers and it’s a great matchup.”
Bryant made 12 catches for 174 yards in two games against Norman and the Redskins last season. Their second meeting ended with Norman throwing a towel in Bryant’s direction and a dispute over postgame trash talk.
It seems all of that was put on the back-burner when they worked together for Samsung. Norman said his relationship with Bryant is now “cordial.”
“I guess a bit of money solves and heals everything off the field, right?” Norman said. “Everything, it’s back smooth. I hope it stays that way. Only Sunday can tell that, but I hope it does.”
Bryant and Norman, who should return after missing two games with a broken rib, spent the week leading up to their next showdown complimenting each other and espousing mutual respect.
“It’s nothing really ill between us two,” Bryant said. “We both know it’s extremely competitive between the two when we get in between those lines. But I think we’ve both grown past that a little bit. I think we’re going to go out there and play some good ball.”
Of course, all it takes is one confrontation for two alpha males to forget all about their collaboration and revert to their old ways.
“You never know, man,” Norman said. “He’s a guy that flips the switch. I’m just like that. … But I don’t know if that will happen. If it does, then we’re ready for it. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue to be, what they call that thing? Advertising buds. Advertising friends.”
Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Frisco, Texas, contributed.