New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. always has a target on his back, routinely drawing coverage from an opponent’s best defender. He may have that same target on his back within his own locker room.
Beckham took shots at quarterback Eli Manning, head coach Pat Shurmur, even the Big Apple itself in an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson and rapper (and fellow New Orleans native) Lil Wayne that aired Sunday.
“I don’t know,” Beckham said when asked if the Giants’ offensive woes were because of the quarterback position. “Like I said, I feel like he’s not going to get out of the pocket. He’s not…we know Eli’s not running it. But is it a matter of time issue? Can he still throw it, yeah, but it’s been pretty safe and it’s been, you know, cool catching shallow routes and trying to take it to the house. But I’m, you know, I want to go over the top of somebody.”
Manning and Beckham combined for 38 touchdowns, ranked sixth among quarterback-wide receiver combos, entering Week 5. Beckham had eight receptions for 131 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the Giants’ 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
He also threw his first NFL touchdown on a 57-yard deceptive play to running back Saquon Barkley. Beckham had two key blunders against Carolina. He failed to catch a perfectly thrown pass on fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter. Besides that, he spotted the Panthers six points when he muffed a punt return that was recovered by Carolina in the end zone.
He also questioned the heart of his teammates in the interview.
“I think it’s everything at the moment. It’s just everything. It’s just everything,” Beckham said. “And not to say that it’s not going to work at the moment. I feel like I work entirely way too hard.”
Beckham lives in Los Angeles in the offseason. He refused to say whether he is happy in New York.
“It’s a tough question,” he said. “Obviously, I love seeing the sunshine all the time. I love, you know, I love being in L.A. I just like that atmosphere, but this is where I’m at. I remember before games, I used to get that. I used to get butterflies, like good butterflies. I was anxious. And now when I step on the field, it’s something completely different. It’s not butterflies.
“It’s like I want to be here, like I’ve been waiting to get here this whole time. I feel like a caged animal who gets this—it’s my 60 minutes of playtime. You know, I can play with other people. We can play nice or we don’t have to play nice. But I get to play, and I get to do all this. This is my time to be out of the cage. You know, if somebody’s messing with me during my time to be out of the cage, like, it’s going to be a problem.”
Beckham also had thoughts about watching some of the NFL’s high powered offense, specifically the Los Angeles Rams.
“Heated. You know, because I know what I’m capable of. I know what I feel like I bring to the table each and every day,” he said. “And that’s all I want to do. That’s literally all I want to do. I—I’ve given up—personally sacrificed a lot of things recently. Just giving it up, just because this is all I want to do.”
He did offer some slither of hope that the Giants will figure it out and win.
“We going to get it right, as long as I’m here, like I just—I don’t see myself losing, and I hate losing,” Beckham said. “I don’t want to be one at the end of the career who, ‘Oh, he had a great career, and all this, no—no rings, no, none of that’. Like that’s not my—that’s not why I came here to play. That’s not my M.O.”
Beckham signed a five-year extension worth up to $95 million, making him the highest paid wide receiver in NFL history. For Beckham’s detractors, the interview confirms what they always thought of him as: a me-first athlete whose main concerns involve himself. He used the words “I” or “me” more than 100 times in the interview. Supporters will say he provided leadership expected of a high-profile player who signed a record-breaking contract.
Manning, a New Orleans native who went to the same high school as Beckham, shrugged off any suggestion they are not on the same page.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Manning said after the Panthers loss. “Odell and I have a great relationship. Our mindset will be everybody stay focused on beating Philadelphia (Eagles in Week 6).”
Initially, Shurmur brushed off any notion that Beckham was calling out teammates and coaches. This was until he saw the interview in its entirety. Shurmur angrily took the podium after the Panthers loss and addressed Beckham’s interview with the most emotion he’s shown since joining the Giants nearly nine months ago.
“All right, listen, I’m going to answer all the drama questions right now and I’m going to go back to what I said. I addressed it with Odell. I addressed it with our team,” Shurmur said. “I publicly declared that I didn’t agree with his comments and I asked anybody that was interested if they wanted clarification to go to Odell because he’s a big man.
“Now, I’m not going to give the public a pound of flesh on this, all right? That would make me small not strong. And these are the kind of things, in my opinion, when we have the locker room that we have that will help galvanize them because the locker room took care of it and that is all I’m saying on it. Finito. Done. Let’s talk football, not drama.”
Shots fired from Shurmur. He definitely has the backbone some say his predecessor lacked by addressing Beckham’s comments subtly but with plenty of force.
Beckham believes his interview, to paraphrase Shurmur, galvanized the team.
“I don’t regret anything,” he said. “I don’t regret anything that I said. If it took that for us to come together as a team like we did (against Carolina). I can take that every single time.”
Wide receiver Russell Shepard, who had a potential go-ahead touchdown wiped out by a penalty, agreed.
“One hundred percent a positive,” Shepard said. “We played our asses off (against Carolina). It showed. We just didn’t finish the game.
The Giants played with more fight and energy than they had in their previous four games. It is difficult to determine the reason why but Beckham sees Sunday’s loss as a turning point.
“I’m proud of where we stand, even though we’re 1-4,” he said. “This game is going to be monumental for our season in my eyes.”
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.