Whenever they’re on the field on Sunday against the Steelers, the Giants defenders will make it a point to locate No. 84.
They won’t be alone.
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On the Giants sideline will be another set of eyes watching for Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh’s most dynamic and versatile weapon. Those will belong to Odell Beckham Jr., who said on Wednesday that he wants to watch the receiver he is most often compared to — and vice versa — play in person for the first time.
“This is definitely a game where I’m going to be standing up watching this guy,” Beckham said. “I just want to see . . . I’m definitely looking forward to watching AB for sure. Hopefully he doesn’t have too many celebrations.”
Brown and Beckham have trained together in the offseasons, but they also have a special relationship that Beckham and a select few others share. Beckham said Brown is included in a tight circle he considers kindred spirits in the NFL — he named Broncos linebacker Von Miller as another — as well as other sports such as LeBron James in basketball.
They’re all, Beckham said, players who aspire not to be great but to be “beyond great.”
“I feel like you are who you hang around,” Beckham said. “If you hang around people who have the same mindset, the same focus, the same goal as you, it makes it a lot easier for you to stay on track with what you want to do and what you want to accomplish. Von and AB, we’re all in the same group. We love to kill it when we get out on the field but most importantly we like to enjoy life. We like to have fun, we like to dance, we like to do all that.”
Another who could fit into that group — other than the dancing part — would be Peyton Manning, who stopped by Giants practice on Tuesday. Beckham, though, admitted that the recently retired quarterback may be in a group of one when it comes to his drive and intellect. That’s why Beckham only chatted with him for a short time.
“He’s got a lot of knowledge, so you can only have a little conversation with him,” Beckham said with a grin. “He’ll drop too much on you at one time. I couldn’t really handle that.”
Beckham said he and Brown are very similar players, and their statures and statistics bear that out. There are, however, differences.
Beckham said he considers himself a “little big receiver” in that he likes to jump up and catch the ball at its highest point whereas Brown is more dangerous making over-the-shoulder catches. Beckham also said that he often watches film of Brown to “steal” some of his moves or techniques and make them his own. He also “learned the ropes” of training and dealing with the perks and pitfalls of NFL celebrity from Brown, who is in his seventh season with the Steelers.
They’ve also both drawn fire from media, coaches and the league for letting their exuberances get in the way of team goals on the field.
Interestingly enough, when asked what part of Brown’s game he would like to have the most, Beckham chose a non-football element.
“Just smiling all the time,” he said. “I’d take that from him. Just smiling through it all.”
The Giants defenders are not smiling thinking about Brown. Veteran cornerback Leon Hall, who played against Brown and the Steelers about a dozen times in his career, let loose an expletive when asked to describe Brown’s game.
“He can do it all,” Hall said. “He’s fast, quick, tough. That’s a good combination.”
The task of covering him will likely fall to Janoris Jenkins, who has become the team’s top cornerback. Jenkins has handled the likes of Dez Bryant and A.J. Green so far this season, and now he gets to take on Brown.
Beckham said he’ll of course be rooting for his defense when he’s watching Brown go to work on Sunday. That’s the best way for the Giants to win, of course. But he’ll also be keeping track of the stats in the game to see not only whose team comes out on top, but which player does when the final numbers are tallied.
“It’s somewhat a competition, but it’s all love,” Beckham said. “It’s a friendly competition . . . Yeah, you want to go out and be the best every single time. That’s what you do, that’s what you work for. Yeah, ultimately I would like to do better than him, but if he does better and we win — I may have lost one but I won the other.”