OBJ couldn’t wait a day.
Odell Beckham Jr. couldn’t let the Giants complete one full day of training camp and put their heads on their pillows without resuming the distraction that perpetually accompanies – and often counters – his talent.
He couldn’t wait one day to resurrect the controversy over his contract. He couldn’t spend one day just being one of the guys. He had to say in a video on the website Uninterrupted that he believes he, one day, will be the “highest-paid” player in the NFL, “period.”
Beckham, in fact, didn’t even wait until day one of camp. The video is dated this past Monday, July 24. So even before he greeted coach Ben McAdoo with a hug on the field in East Rutherford for his conditioning test on Thursday, Beckham already effectively had poured gasoline on the flickering fire and lit the match.
The stones on this guy: Beckham, 24, is saying that he deserves to be the highest-paid player in football after, of all games, the worst performance of his career.
He partied with teammates in Miami overnight six days prior to the first playoff game of his career in January. Then he dropped a would-be third-down conversion and a would-be touchdown in Green Bay, changing the complexion of a 38-13 loss to the Packers, before (allegedly) punching a hole in a Lambeau Field wall.
General manager Jerry Reese finally then told him to “grow up” in his exit meeting. And how did Beckham respond? By skipping all of the Giants’ voluntary offseason OTA workouts; retweeting a reporter’s suggestion that he hold out until he receives a new contract; and, after attending minicamp and talking around the contract issue, broaching the subject again in a video that went viral on the first night of Giants training camp.
This simply is not how a player conducts himself if he doesn’t want to be a distraction to his team. And delivering this message through Uninterrupted – which bypasses the media to provide unfiltered athlete perspective – directly disproves Beckham’s regular contention that the media manufactures negative stories about him and twists his words, as if that needed disproving anyway.
It also validates Daily News columnist Gary Myers’ pre-camp concern in an open letter to Beckham on Tuesday that the young receiver might not get out of his own way and become New York’s next wasted talent.
Understand: Beckham is not wrong that he is worth more than he is being paid. He is worth way more on the open market even than the $8.4 million he’s owed on his fifth-year option in 2018, let alone the $1.8 million he’s due to make this coming season. And no one should begrudge a professional athlete for wanting to secure his or her future before his earning power disappears, especially in a sport as dangerous as football.
Except the Giants hold all the leverage, for one: they could make him play out this contract and then franchise tag him for two straight years after, controlling his rights for four more season before he can budge. And more importantly, while Beckham may believe his career trend is continuing upward, the Giants have to wonder if it may actually be at its crossroads.
Beckham faces the decision to fall in line, channel his energy toward the team first and control his emotions, or to continue acting however he wants and saying whatever he wants and making himself the story. It is easy to forget how regularly he flew off the handle last season, but Beckham was a constant issue with antics going back to the preseason, and that demonstrated that Beckham’s behavior isn’t anomaly but a pattern.
It is all topped off by his violent and flagrant headshot on Josh Norman on Dec. 20, 2015, in Week 15 against Carolina, which made co-owner John Mara’s comment in a report Thursday morning all the more perplexing.
“He’s always going to be an emotional player, and we’re going to have to live with, hopefully, an occasional and rare outburst every once in a while because he wants to win so badly. But I think he is going to mature. He’s 24 years old,” Mara said.
Live with the occasional outburst? What if you had to pay Beckham $26 million a year, John, the amount that would make him the highest-paid player in the NFL by annual salary if he were signed to an extension this second? How would those outbursts, and a one-game suspension like the one Beckham earned for his fight with Norman, sit with you then?
Listen, both Mara and Reese have said they’re open to midseason negotiations. If all goes well, Beckham might have his extension before November. The Giants know he could be an all-time talent and they intend to eventually pay him. Beckham showed up at camp, so it’s not like he’s holding out.
And yet, when Thursday should have been a day to optimistically talk about the Giants’ Super Bowl aspirations and Ben McAdoo’s motivational anecdote about a sex-crazed lion, it became all about Beckham and the possibility of a world-class distraction hovering over this team daily until a deal is reached.
That is why Beckham said it best in the video’s closing comments.
“I’m up right now until I can rest after holding up a trophy and be like, it’s been a long ride,” Beckham told Uninterrupted. “But until then, words that come out of my mouth is just like, it’s in the air. It doesn’t really mean anything. The only thing I can do is what I do on the field Sunday.”