EAST RUTHERFORD — To review the biggest developments from Day 1 at Giants training camp — or, as it is predictably becoming, the exciting new season of Odell Beckham Jr.’s reality TV show:
1. Beckham doubled down on his comments that he wants to be the “highest paid (player), period” in the NFL, insisting that he was a modern Robin Hood of sorts who was really just looking for this payday to help make other players wealthy. His new slogan: “Show EVERYONE the money.”
2. Giants co-owner and CEO John Mara essentially opened up the team’s vault and yelled “come and get it” at his talented receiver, telling reporters that Beckham “is going to end up getting paid” sooner than later and hinted that, quite possibly, this could happen before next season.
But it was what Mara didn’t say that was stunning — and, if you’re a Giants fan, maybe even troubling. The co-owner was asked if he needed to see anything from the mercurial player, namely more maturity and fewer holes punched into walls, before committing the team’s resources to him over a long-term and salary-cap consuming deal.
“I think he’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing and keep playing. He’s going to get a long-term contract. We’re not asking him to prove anything at this point. Just keep playing as hard as you’ve been playing and continue your growth off the field as a person and I’m confident he’s going to do both. He’s a very smart young man, very talented player. He’s somebody that we want here for a long time.”
That key part again: We’re not asking him to prove anything at this point. That’s a departure from previous statements from Mara himself, GM Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo, who all — quite fairly — said that Beckham needed to stop with the nonsense that threatens to derail his Hall of Fame talent.
Beckham, the player, is worth far more than the $1.8 million he’s due for this season and the $8.4 million he’s owed on his contract’s fifth-year option for next season. He is one of the three best receivers in the league, the kind of special talent that the Giants have never had.
Mara, better than anyone, understands that. Still: He can’t commit to making him one of the highest-paid receivers without feeling comfortable that Beckham is finally going to control his emotions.
Forget the comments he made to the UNINTERRUPTED, the website LeBron James created to let athletes speak directly to fans, this week. Sure, they are an unnecessary distraction, but the Giants are still 44 days away from playing a game that counts.
This is worth remembering: The Giants lost six games last season. Beckham had some outburst during or after five of them. He started with the kicking-net incident against the Redskins, then was flagged for an out-of-bounds hit and bumped a ref in Minnesota, then he ripped the referees for “disrespecting” him after a rough day in Pittsburgh, and then he banged his head against a steel wall in Philadelphia.
Then, as the cherry on top of that snit sundae, he punched a hole through that wall in Green Bay after his worst game as a pro. It was embarrassing on every level for the Giants, and their response the next day — to publicly implore their star receiver to stop with the nonsense — was appropriate.
Have they really abandoned the “tough love” approach already? Because Beckham has shown no sign that he believes anything about his behavior is a problem, insisting on Friday that he has “no regrets” for anything. You wonder: What will happen if Beckham doubles down and becomes and even bigger headache?
Don’t laugh. The Giants have made it abundantly clear that they’re going to pay him anyway. He doesn’t have to listen to McAdoo’s pleas to show up for OTAs or anything else. If Josh Norman tries to get into his head again, what’s to stop him from engaging in cage-match football again?
Not Mara, apparently.
“He deserves to get paid. We’re going to pay him. It’s just a question of when we enter into the contract,” Mara said. “I just don’t feel like there’s any need to rush into it, but he’s going to end up getting paid at some point.”
Maybe Mara’s training-camp position will change if Beckham’s behavior continues to be a problem when the regular season begins. Still, he has forfeited a lot of his negotiating ability when those contract negotiations begin but, more importantly, sent the wrong message to his young star.
Beckham absolutely deserves a big contract for his performance on the field, but first he must prove that he can control his emotions. That’s no small thing, and the Giants’ decision to shrug off those problems now is a big mistake.