He’s a far cry from the brash and in-your-face wide receiver of a year ago. Here is a player who is now as mature as he is talented.
Odell Beckham Jr. had plenty of opportunities on Wednesday to talk trash, to sound off on this topic or that topic. It has been low-hanging fruit around these parts for the past four years, knowing that Beckham could either bristle or go braggadocio in his response to a leading question.
Either response, truth be told, was good enough for the back pages.
Need a salty quote? Make a beeline for Beckham and see what rolls out. It was a simple no-brainer given how loose one of the biggest stars in the NFL was with his words.
And yet here and now, Beckham wasn’t taking the bait. In fact, he was taking responsibility.
The New York Giants star wide receiver knows that for every cornerback on the schedule this year, he is likely their biggest opponent. There isn’t a player in the secondary in this league that doesn’t want to knock the taunting, flaunting star playmaker on his keister, a message that surely would grab the headlines in all the Monday newspapers.
And yet Beckham acknowledges that it isn’t just his skill set that has made him this target but also his choices and decisions on the field as well as off of it. There is a target on Beckham, and it is in large part his own doing.
He didn’t try to downplay it. He didn’t run for a safe space.
Beckham owned his past.
“I don’t think that the contract can do any more for that target on my back. Inflicted by the world, inflicted by myself,” Beckham said on Wednesday. “That target has been on there since I came in so I don’t know if a contract is going to help. That target increases and decreases. Guys have always wanted to hit me and be able to talk about it. It’s just the reality of where I’m at in life. It’s just something I’ve had to deal with.”
This week, Beckham might face his biggest challenge of the year in Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Throughout the summer, Ramsey has been hyping this meeting of the two players and been doing some rather mild trash talking.
And unlike three years ago when then Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman lured Beckham into some trash talk of his own and then physically confronted him in a regular season game, Beckham is playing this one cool.
In fact, rather than wade into the swamp, Beckham was complimentary of Ramsey. The Giants star went so far as comparing him to Deion Sanders, arguably the best ever cornerback in league history.
He didn’t pout. Didn’t cry or complain.
This Beckham sounded polite, contrite and even level-headed. He didn’t blink at the scrutiny and opened up about the past. He maintained his focus on the week ahead, all while owning up to his past immaturity.
It is easier said than done, however, especially given Beckham’s checkered past of mental breakdowns and bad decisions on the field. As opposed to that Carolina game three years ago, now it is time to see if his immense talent can be matched by what appears to be his growing maturity.
“This right here. I remember going into the week before. To be honest with you, I hadn’t watched much tape on Josh [Norman] before we had played them. They came here, I remember you all bringing me information on his interview and saying that he said, ‘this is sweet and blah blah blah’, the stories, and the papers that were written – it was all set up to happen what exactly happened,” Beckham said.
“I’m kind of just seeing things different now and just knowing it is going to be a matchup. It’s not going to be something that you repeat. The history repeats itself and it’s in the past, and kind of buying into that same thing.”