Seeing Thursday’s Giants OTA practice in person truly put into perspective why it matters so much that Odell Beckham Jr. was absent this week:
Basically, almost everyone was there but him.
Beckham, Olivier Vernon and Owa Odighizuwa were unaccounted for. That’s it.
It turns out that Vernon, by the way, missed all three days of OTAs this week, just like Beckham. That’s the player with the Giants’ second highest salary cap hit, and a leader of the disappointing pass rush that made Aaron Rodgers much too comfortable in January, opting against working with his team.
Vernon’s absence is troubling. Odighizuwa’s is creating a troublesome pattern for a player already on the roster bubble who earlier this offseason hinted at retirement on Twitter. But Beckham’s situation is unique given how his behavior on and off the field led to GM Jerry Reese sitting him down in January and calling for maturation and better decisions as a face of the franchise.
How has Beckham responded? Well, teammate Sterling Shepard couldn’t answer that question on Thursday.
Do you know why?
“I mean it’s been the offseason, so we haven’t been really with each other, so it’s hard to say,” Shepard said. “But Odell’s a guy that’s gonna work hard wherever he is. So it’s kind of hard to say, like I said. We haven’t been together.”
That’s exactly the point. They haven’t been together.
Beckham told NFL Network on Thursday: “I love my team and am excited about the season.” He would not comment on attending the seven remaining Giants voluntary OTAs but said he “for sure” will attend the team’s three-day, mandatory mini-camp June 13-15. How gracious.
But Beckham isn’t here now. He’s not setting a positive example or demonstrating that he gets what he must change. He’s not here to tell Shepard not to do Thursday’s interview wearing a hat that reads “YAYO,” the slang word for cocaine, even if one website says it’s an acronym for a clothing company “You Are Your Own.”
Why confuse the image? What is going on here? Decisions matter and they have consequences.
Oh, and for the crowd that needs the Giants to say something before believing it’s true, here is head coach Ben McAdoo expressing his displeasure with Beckham’s and Vernon’s absences:
“You want all your players here, especially the great players,” McAdoo said Thursday. “It’s a time to get fundamentals and communication and chemistry, trust. So you want all your players here, especially the great ones, who facilitate a lot of those things for you. But you coach who’s here.”
What’s also curious is that ESPN had reported earlier this week that Beckham, after missing practice Monday and Tuesday, was planning to attend Thursday’s session. So what changed Beckham’s mind? Is he ticked off about coverage of his Tuesday photo and reported workout with ex-NFL bad boy Johnny Manziel?
That’s sure how it seemed from Beckham’s tweet Wednesday afternoon, quoting the rapper Drake’s song, “9.”
“If they don’t have a story these days they’ll make one…” I might get that tatted,” Beckham wrote on his Twitter account @OBJ_3, with two crying face emojis and the hashtag #StayTheCourse.
If only Eli Manning could speak on this now, because while the quarterback never throws teammates under the bus, Beckham’s act must be wearing mighty thin for the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback with a career clock ticking and an edict from McAdoo to improve his efficiency with completions to No. 13.
Manning was not made available to media on Thursday.
McAdoo would not answer a question about whether Beckham’s absence was contract-related, a topic coming into view with Beckham’s current deal due to expire after the 2018 season.
“I answered the question,” McAdoo said.
Damon “Snacks” Harrison played the role of good teammate, expressing confidence that Vernon and Beckham are working hard anyway and giving them the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m sure they’re not here just because they just didn’t feel like coming,” Harrison said. “If I didn’t live in New Jersey full time I probably wouldn’t be here right now. I mean, O.V.’s from Miami. Have you seen the weather here lately? I’d run from it, too. So I’m sure they’ve got some good reasons why.”
But even Harrison admitted “they miss an opportunity to get out here around the rookies, O.V. (misses the opportunity) to feel out (rookie tackle) Dalvin (Tomlinson) right now. And that’s something they’re gonna have to work on in training camp.”
It’s interesting, too: while teams probably wish OTAs were mandatory, their voluntary nature actually gives coaches a good opportunity to learn about their players’ priorities, where their heads are.
Beckham and Vernon have made clear where their heads are this week: in the sun and clouds of elsewhere, and not in New Jersey.