NY Giants coach Pat Shurmur talks presence of Odell Beckham Jr. as minicamp begins and what he has seen from his star wife receiver in East Rutherford.
Art Stapleton, Staff Writer, @art_stapleton
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This was the plan all along, no matter how many different variations of it have been tossed around publicly as if somehow then the narrative regarding Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants would change.
Beckham was always going to be here for mandatory minicamp Tuesday, continuing what he hopes is a path back to the game he essentially dominated for three seasons and the better part of four games before a fractured ankle sent him to the sideline, abruptly halting that ascension.
As Beckham moved around the practice field flashing some of that old potential — “Sometimes I forget he was even injured,” teammate Sterling Shepard quipped afterward — his presence served as a counter to what many anticipated.
Why is Beckham, accused by critics of being a selfish and showboating diva who wants to be the highest paid player in football, on the practice field with his teammates and not holding out for the contract extension most of us know he deserves?
Take a look around the NFL and there is another big name staying away from his team in a financial dispute seemingly every hour.
More: Ravens bound to feel the heat of spotlight amid franchise’s unrest
More: Andrew Luck’s last major hurdle in his comeback is his mind
Aaron Donald and the Rams. Khalil Mack and the Raiders. Julio Jones and the Falcons. David Johnson and the Cardinals. Taylor Lewan and the Titans.
Beckham is the outlier, and it’s hard for some to accept the fact that he’s a lot smarter than his reputation dotted with inexplicable missteps might suggest.
In situations such as these, disproving misinformation is nearly impossible.
Any number of potential sources may or may not be talking truth on the issue, leaving the consumer (you the fans) and the media to believe whatever each individual chooses.
Make no mistake: This isn’t a standoff between Beckham and the Giants.
That doesn’t mean that one will never happen — contract negotiations being what they are, it’s certainly possible Beckham and the Giants will come to an impasse, whether that happens in training camp, on the doorstep of the 2018 regular season or some point in the future.
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stretches during Giants minicamp in East Rutherford, NJ on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com)
Any insistence that Beckham and the Giants are currently operating without an understanding is a refusal to accept what is reality. The ability to tell the difference between facts and fiction is a rare trait nowadays, mostly due to the fact that so many have a preconceived notion of what is going to happen, what should happen and what is good for business.
Promising a strained relationship between Beckham and the Giants in June when there isn’t one should not be hailed as fodder for the “told you so” crowd if one should develop down the road.
“I’m not worried about it and neither is he,” coach Pat Shurmur said, answering the first of several post-practice questions about Beckham’s desire to not play this season on the final year of his rookie contract, a figure worth $8 million, which even with his injury he has completely outperformed. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I look at a player that loves football, he’s out there right now doing his thing and he wants to be here and as the coach and the player, that’s what we talk about.”
Shurmur made sure that one of the priorities shortly after becoming head coach was to develop a foundation with Beckham, clearly as the most talented player and perhaps the most polarizing, especially outside of his locker room.
The player and his third head coach since being drafted made sure to get on the same page as far as expectations, scheduling throughout the offseason program and anything else that may come up along the way.
The focus was on Beckham during Tuesday’s minicamp with some taking his non-participation in team drills as a sign of acrimony. Shurmur told the NFL Network that an early morning ESPN report suggesting the team asked Beckham to participate in team drills and he refused was not true, and the latter did everything the Giants have asked of him.
Worth noting: Teammate Landon Collins, who is also seeking a contract extension heading into the final year of his rookie deal, did not participate in team drills as he recovers from a second surgery in May to repair his fractured forearm.
Both players were medically cleared to practice, but at the discretion of all involved, the plan was never for either Beckham or Collins to risk anything in minicamp.
The Giants would be foolish to push their two best players in June.
Sooner or later, Beckham may take a look around the league and wonder if the Giants are playing him like a fool. He’s doing everything Shurmur and the coaches and team brass have asked of him this offseason, including Tuesday when he participated in individual drills and and took part in the walk-through portions of practice in addition to attending all meetings.
At some point between the start of training camp in late July and Week 1 at home against Jacksonville, Beckham’s representatives and the Giants owe it to themselves to seriously engage in talks about a new deal.
Will they figure out a way to meet in the middle, coming up with a deal that satisfies both sides? It’s certainly in the best interests of both to do so. As far as salary cap implications go, the Giants would have some work to do in order to make the first year of the kind of extension Beckham is seeking — $18 million per season is a reasonable starting point and go up from there — but it can be done with some maneuvering. It’s even possible to lower Beckham’s cap hit in 2018 if necessary.
Beckham appears to understand the end game here: The Giants hold all the cards, even if he gets to the point where holding out could be the only way to force the issue. That strategy won’t sit well with Beckham the competitor, and there’s no doubt the brand he has built with Nike and others and his pop star popularity are far greater when he can show off his remarkable talent on the field.
Plus, Beckham will never hit the market if the Giants want to prevent that from happening because they can use the franchise tag for, at the very least, the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
There will be a time when a line may get drawn in the sand, but that time isn’t now.
Truth is, Beckham and the Giants have every reason to make this work before we ever get to that. It’s why Beckham is doing everything asked of him, giving himself the chance to earn that pay day he has earned.
And that’s a fact everyone should be able to agree on.