Odell Beckham Jr. figured he needed to make things right with his teammates Saturday night in Charlotte. The Giants megastar had questioned his team’s heart and ripped the offense in an ESPN interview airing in full the next day, and the onus was on him to make sure no one felt negatively about his comments.
So Beckham shot a text to head coach Pat Shurmur to ask if he could address the team. Nervous, he stood in front of his teammates and explained himself.
“It had been on my heart honestly since Dallas game [in Week 2],” Beckham said. “I think all the stuff that was built up inside came out in the wrong way. And I texted him and I asked if I could have a minute just to talk to the team because I feel like if we’re not all on the same page, if it’s not authentic and real and we can all understand each other then there’s always going to be miscommunication. So to be able to do that was big for me.”
The Giants lost 33–31 Sunday when Panthers K Graham Gano nailed a 63-yard field goal as time expired (an anomaly as kickers continued to miss numerous kicks around the league), falling to 1–4 on the season. But Beckham took plenty of positives from the game, and not just because he had his most impressive stat line of the season.
“I haven’t felt any more closer than I have in the last 24 hours,” Beckham said. “If it took that to bring us together, I can carry that. I’m proud of what we showed today and everything that we showed today.”
Seated beside Lil Wayne and fielding questions from ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Beckham talked earlier in the week about not getting enough targets from quarterback Eli Manning. He couldn’t even say he was truly happy being in New York.
His coach disagreed with the comments but Beckham still had no regrets about what he said on Sunday. “Words can be portrayed in any kind of light,” Beckham said after the game while admitting to learning curve as he tries to find his role as a team leader. “This is a position I’ve never been in ... I’m trying to learn and grow. I’m learning on the way, so I’m on the fly.”
Beckham and Shurmur both opted against publicly revealing what was said in their conversation (and Beckham admitted to having a private talk with Manning, too), but the head coach did echo his receiver’s thought that the comments helped the locker room.
“I’m not going to give the public a pound of flesh on this, alright,” Shurmur said. “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.”
Giants rookie Saquon Barkley said he had no issue with what Beckham said. Manning said the two “have a great relationship.” Michael Thomas said he has no issue with a player trying to hold others accountable.
Perhaps the comments and the surrounding controversy sparked Beckham himself. He caught eight of his 14 targets for 131 yards and a touchdown. Shurmur further got Beckham involved by having him throw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Barkley in the second quarter on a gadget play, and Beckham became the first Giant since Frank Gifford in 1959 to both throw and catch a touchdown in a game.
But he also had a costly fourth-down drop in the first quarter that he chalked up to miscommunication. He also had a punt glance off his leg that Carolina recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, and after the game Beckham refused to say the ball even touched him.
At this point in the season, the Giants playoff chances are slim, and a loss on Thursday night against the defending Super Bowl champs will match their 1–5 start to last year’s 3–13 record. But Beckham thinks Sunday’s devastating loss will actually turn things around for these Giants, and he has his comments to thank for that.
“Even though we’re 1–4,” Beckham said, “this game today is going to be monumental for our season in my eyes.”