In Defense of Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ missing OTAs isn’t news. At all, so let’s stop talking about it.
In the offseason, NFL teams hold organized team activities — OTAs, as they’re more commonly referred to as. These activities are voluntary, and participation is not mandatory whatsoever. Throughout the history of these voluntary practices, a myriad of players have opted to train elsewhere. It’s incredibly common. Yet, for some strange reason, everybody is losing their minds over the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. has decided to skip these voluntary — AS IN: “done, given, or acting of one’s own free will” — workouts.
The misguided and, quiet frankly, ignorant hate toward Beckham for missing these voluntary workouts is insane for a few reasons. First and foremost, Beckham is not the only star not attending OTAs.
Eli Manning has had a litany of comebacks in his career. Here are the 10 best.gothamsn.com
Fletcher Cox wasn’t at OTAs. Ditto for Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. A slew of Chicago Bears no-showed. Oh, and Beckham’s own teammate Olivier Vernon isn’t at OTAs. But that’s not news, because he doesn’t have blonde hair. With the number of players not attending OTAs, it almost feels like these things may be … voluntary. These are professional athletes, and they have the right to skip these drills.
The centerpiece of the Rams, Aaron Donald, is skipping OTAs, most likely because he’s holding out for a contract. That, right there, is 10x more newsworthy than Beckham simply choosing not to attend.
But no, people are still hyper-focused on what the blonde-haired sensation is doing with his free time. Pick a fucking story out of a hat, and I’ll bet it’s more newsworthy than a player who has earned his stripes deciding to skip voluntary workouts.
Giants beat writer Patricia Traina discussed why Beckham is doing literally nothing wrong by skipping OTAs, as she touched upon the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
According to said CBA: “Section 1. Voluntary Workouts: No player shall be required to attend or participate in any offseason workout program or classroom instruction of a Club other than as provided in article 22.”
Ipso facto, Beckham, as well as every other NFL player, can absolutely, 100 percent skip OTAs sans any penalty other than Twitter accounts and Colin Cowherd trolling.
Secondly, it’s not like Beckham’s in jeopardy of losing his starting spot. OTAs, for those of you who don’t know, are hardly even practices. These guys are out there in a jersey and shorts, no pads. They catch passes, and that’s about it. And if you want to break it down and get really technical about things, you could argue Beckham’s absence actually helps the Giants receivers. Newcomers Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, as well as the younger receivers are getting more repetitions with Eli Manning. That’s a good thing.
And I know this is speculative, but OTAs present players with another chance to sustain an injury. The Ravens know this first-hand, as tight end Dennis Pitta (dislocated hip) and cornerback Tavon Young (torn ACL) both suffered injuries at the voluntary workouts. And let’s not forget about Hakeem Nicks. The former postseason hero fractured his foot at OTAs, and was never close to being the same caliber player again. It was literally announced today that Taylor Decker would need shoulder surgery because of an injury sustained during OTAs.
Additionally, both Nicks and Cruz — you know, the team’s two top receivers entering the 2013 season — skipped OTAs back in 2013, according to Dave Hutchinson of NJ Advance Media.
The notion that Beckham — congrats to him on that Nike deal, by the way, it’s bigger than his contract with the Giants — simply isn’t working out or anything is also bullshit. Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Cris Carter recently worked out with Beckham. And while I may not agree with Carter saying Beckham can learn more from him than from the Giants, it’s hard to hate on OBJ receiving — see what I did there? — advice and tutelage from one of the game’s all-time best receivers.
And to be fair, Carter’s teaching methods actually seem really, really interesting. His main goal (according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News) appears to be making Beckham more mentally tough, which is a great thing.
“Odell is going to grow up,” Carter said. “That why’s he is bringing other people in his life so he can grow up. If he wasn’t trying to grow up, he wouldn’t be calling Cris Carter. He’s getting people to tell him all the right stuff. He wants to be better. Not only as a player, but emotionally, as a son, friend and teammate. He’s in the process of doing that.”
Carter also pointed out something I’ve been saying since the playoffs, which is the boat trip had nothing to do with Beckham’s awful outing. He put too much pressure on himself and psyched himself out.
So that’s what Beckham’s been doing during his free time: Working out with a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver.
People make it seem like Beckham is just at home, sitting on his hands, committing all seven deadly sins in one day. The dude is not being a slouch with his time off.
Look, I understand that this is the dreaded dead period of the NFL year. Nothing that important is really happening, and we’re subjected to hearing the same old, tried-and-true, drab interviews players and coaches give during this period.
“I’ve never felt faster.” “We’re impressed with *insert player’s name here*.” “It’s good to be back out here.”
It’s all part of trope season, as NFL Network’s Dan Hanzus calls it.
Beckham, being the polarizing star that he is, is always going to be at least somewhat newsworthy. After all, in the eyes of some, he’s famous, and in the eyes of others, he’s infamous. He’s the quintessential never-ending news story. Beckham’s name is going to generate page views. It’s just the truth. His last name is attention-grabbing, because people will see the article and say, “Hey, I like OBJ, I’ll see what’s being said about him.” Or, they’ll read the headline and go, “I hate that Beckham kid! I’ll see if this writer does too!”
Odell Beckham Jr. has scored plenty of touchdowns during his short career. Here’s where all 35 of his TD celebrations…gothamsn.com
When does it stop, people? At this point, he could sneeze the wrong way and he would be lamented for it.
But the media’s outright bias — as well as people’s confirmation bias when they see a headline trashing Beckham — goes well beyond OTAs. Beckham’s been cast as a petulant villain. Let’s talk about stuff other players do that would get OBJ crucified by the media.
Ezekiel Elliott pulled down a woman’s top. Was there an insane amount of outrage? Nope. Somehow, Beckham missing fucking voluntary workouts made more mainstream news than Elliott engaging in an act that could be considered sexual harassment.
Apparently, Jets linebacker Darron Lee was pulled away from an altercation with a woman by his teammate Leonard Williams (according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post). It’s registered somewhat in the news, sure. But if Beckham had to be restrained by Brandon Marshall for the same thing, the amount of bad press would be astronomical.
Do you know how Rob Gronkowski spent his offseason? Well, he moonlighted as a professional wrestler, as the often-injured Gronk got physically involved on more than one occasion. He also appeared in an explicit music video featuring lingerie-clad women. Why do we, as fans, give Gronkowski a free pass for doing the most absurd things, but chastise Beckham for skipping voluntary workouts?
Could you imagine the amount of backlash and disapproval Beckham would get if he did the same stuff the 69-loving Gronkowski does? It fucking boggles my mind that people were more upset with Beckham attending the NCAA March Madness Championship game than with Gronkowski doing have the stuff he does.
The reason Gronkowski gets a free pass is because his wide range of crazy antics — the partying, the girls, the petulant jokes — are part of his gimmick. It’s who he is off the field — his character if you will. The issue is that people made that his character, so he’s able to do whatever. The same people made Beckham’s character a bad guy. Saying Beckham can be an idiot at times is fair. But to completely say, “Oh no, this guy is a heel all of the time,” just because of a few displays of stupid-idiot syndrome doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Furthermore, as @NYGDaily pointed out, people are more upset with Beckham’s actions than the actions of Josh Brown. Brown was the team’s kicker from 2013–2016, and was involved in a domestic-violence incident that ultimately let to his release from the team. Yes, people are more upset with Beckham’s perceived attitude issue than they were about the Giants employing a man who admitted to beating his wife.
It seems like people hate just for the sake of hating.
Why, oh why, are we so concerned with what Beckham is doing in his free time? Is he breaking the law? No. Is he doing drugs? No. Is he beating women? No. Is he dog-fighting? No. Is he making headlines for calling players out? No.
And I mean, have Beckham’s off-field “distractions” hindered his production on the field? Not even slightly. He’s a top-three receiver in the NFL, and I really don’t even think we’ve seen the best of him yet.
The worst part about the hatred is that it seems like the better Beckham plays, the more upset people get. I understand that, as I would get pretty pissed off if I constantly had to see some dude with blonde hair do a Michael Jackson rendition every time he scored a touchdown. Beckham’s going to be around for a long time, so the hate will continue.
I really don’t think he lets it get to him. Beckham seems uber-focused on making sure he goes down as one of the all-time greats. I would venture to guess his thoughts concerning the criticism sounds something like Bobby Brown lyrics.
“Everybody’s talkin’ all this stuff about me. Why don’t they just let me live? … They say I’m crazy. I really don’t care.”
Talk Giants with Ryan on Twitter: @DisdierSports