By John Camera
The prodigal son returned. Odell Beckham Jr. was back at the Giant’s practice facility last week for mandatory team OTAs and if you listened to much of the mainstream media, you would think Beckham was holding out and threatening not to play until he got a new contract. Beckham is going into the fourth year of a four year rookie contract with a fifth year option that the Giants have already picked up. During interviews, Beckham committed himself to his teammates and to playing, noting that his absence at voluntary mini-camp had nothing to do with his quest for a new deal despite what anyone said, wrote, or tweeted.
Still, since Beckham achieved super stardom quickly into his 2014 rookie campaign, the spotlight has followed the young Wide Receiver for better and for worse. In this case, it has been negative, Beckham’s absence from New Jersey overshadowing other players who decided not to show up for their team’s voluntary practices, including his teammate and fellow blue-chip player Defensive End Olivier Vernon.
With all this noise about Beckham, his contract, and practice, the New York sports media has a wealth of stories to publish based on these rumors that attract readers with a big-name during the deadest part of the NFL off-season. And in the wake of it, one media and fan-driven storyline has been dredged back up from its ugly depths; Odell Beckham is a diva and locker room cancer akin to Terrell Owens.
Beckham hasn’t exactly been a quiet player since achieving his near-immediate fame, enjoying the lime light while fellow stud receivers like Julio Jones shy away from it. But there’s a big difference between being a loud mouth and being a distraction. Detractors of Beckham’s and supporters of the latter point to Beckham’s issues with Josh Norman, and while Beckham escalated things in their infamous 2015 clash, many leave out that Norman initiated the cheap shots and Beckham held back greatly in 2016.
Other issues that have cropped in Beckham’s career include sideline explosions against Tampa and Carolina in 2015 as well as 2016’s incidents against Washington, Minnesota, and the kicking net. Opponents of Beckham’s, not just Norman but other Cornerbacks like then-Bills’ CB Stephon Gilmore have accused him of being a prima donna, cheap shot artist, and generally an annoyance.
Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence Beckham fed critics was his much-publicized boat excursion with fellow Giants’ Wide Receivers as well as Justin Bieber and Trey Songz. Their next game, a Wild Card matchup against Green Bay, saw the Giants’ receiving corps, and Beckham in particular, rack up drop after drop. Those who see Odell Beckham as an antagonist to his team are fair in using these examples in their argument but more often than not, choose to ignore or conveniently leave out what makes Beckham a great teammate and locker room leader.
A scan of several Giants’ Snapchat stories, including Jason Pierre-Paul, Sterling Shepard, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, shows Beckham joking and interacting with his teammates in a positive manner. One in particular depicts Beckham showing DRC a particular dance and another centered on Beckham and Defensive Tackle Jay Bromley having a dance battle. Beckham is not just a guy who sticks to his teammates on offense but seems to get along with everyone on his team.
Beckham is also not a player who is ever content or satisfied with what he has done. His first three seasons have been the best of any receiver in NFL history. And yet, he is still always working at his craft. Beckham trained in the offseason with Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Carter and has discussed how new acquisition Brandon Marshall has given him tips he can take and adapt to his own game.
While some of the things Odell Beckham does has attracted negative attention to himself and his team, Beckham has been an important player both on the field and in the locker room for the New York Giants. He has been a franchise-changing player, perhaps the biggest star the Giants’ have drafted since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Don’t let anyone tell you Beckham is a locker room divider ala Terrell Owens; they simply aren’t telling the whole truth.