That seems to be the essential question when interpreting Eli Manning’s comments regarding Odell Beckham Jr. and his in-game antics.
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In a radio interview on WFAN Monday, the Giants quarterback was asked about the Beckham circus that included proposing to a kicking net and drawing a 15-yard penalty for removing his helmet along with a career-high 222 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Manning’s quote: “It’s one of those deals where, hey, you can get real sick of it if he’s not going out there and making plays but when he goes out and has a couple of huge catches and 200 yards and a game-winning touchdown, you want him to be a little smarter, but you accept it a little easier.”
On Tuesday, Manning took a seven-step drop away from the idea that he was piling on his star receiver.
“I’m not tired of it,” he said of Beckham’s sideshow. “I thought y’all might get tired of it. That was my comment. They took the ‘you’ and thought it was me, but I was talking about you.”
See? It’s a pronoun problem, not a locker room issue.
If you believe it, which not everyone will. If this political season has taught us anything it’s that two people can physically hear the same remarks and come away with completely different interpretations.
Manning, though, went further in defending Beckham on Tuesday so nothing could be lost in grammatical inferences.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “He’s doing a lot of good things, he’s playing the game the right way, he’s just got to keep making sure the celebrations and whatnot aren’t doing things that are hurting the team in any way.
“I want him to play well, I want him to make plays, I want him to have celebrations and dances and I’m fine with that,” Manning continued. “I want the team to go out there and win games. It’s fun. That was a fun locker room after the game, exciting locker room. It should be all positive stuff. You hate for him to go out there and have his best game of his career, 200 yards in receptions, and then afterwards there had to be a bad spin on things. You don’t want that. He should be celebrating and be happy with it and not have to deal with the side drama of it.”
Manning was asked if he has even had a teammate face as much media scrutiny as Beckham.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “Maybe not. It might be the most.”
It’s not as if Beckham shies away from the spotlight, either. He seemed more than happy to perform for the every-present camera after his last three touchdowns, all of which involved the kicking net that was the plunger to this dynamite when he swung at it in frustration in Week 3.
“The net stuff doesn’t bother me,” Manning said. “You can do whatever you want in that sense if it’s not getting penalized, if it’s not looking bad for the organization or for the team.”
Manning’s concern on Tuesday was only that the net shtick was getting old.
“I think the net has kind of played its part, I think we can move on from the net,” Manning said, “but I’m more worried about taking the helmet off and getting the penalties, those types of things. Those are the things that you have to avoid because you don’t want to hurt the team in any way.”
What can follow up a proposal to a kicking net?
“You have to ask him,” Manning said. “I’m not in that business. I’m not creative enough to propose to a net.”
Manning has spoken about Beckham’s on-and-off the field behavior quite a bit this season, probably more than he has about any teammate in his history with the Giants. As the elder statesman of the locker room, some may see it as Manning being sheriff on the team. But the 35-year-old quarterback insisted that he is not trying to steer the 23-year-old receiver.
“I’m not trying to make comments about him,” Manning said. “Hey, I get asked about him a lot, so I have to comment about it. Odell and I have a great relationship, we talk about a lot of things. We’re on the same page. He knows I’m always looking out for him and he understands the way you can say things and it can get kind of taken one way. Odell and I are on the same page. I get asked multiple questions about him every week.”
This week has so far kept that trend alive.