ARLINGTON, Texas — Ever since he sprained his left ankle Aug. 21, the Giants have considered Odell Beckham Jr. to be day to day.
Sunday was not that day. Beckham was inactive.
The wide receiver warmed up about two hours prior to Sunday night’s season opener against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, even running routes and catching passes from Eli Manning. He did not appear to have any difficulty accelerating, cutting or stopping, but he did not seem to reach top speed at any point during the workout, either.
Late in the 31-minute test drive, Ben McAdoo put his arm around Beckham, spoke through Beckham’s hoodie into his ear for a few moments, and then gave him a pat on the backside. That seemed to be the moment when the Giants told Beckham he would not be playing.
The Giants lined up with Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard as their starting wide receivers. Roger Lewis Jr. and Dwayne Harris were also available at the position. Tavarres King, who had been dealing with less publicized ankle injuries this preseason, as well, was inactive along with Beckham.
The Giants had been practicing almost three weeks without Beckham, so they were prepared schematically to play without him. In fact, the coaches expressed a belief in the offense — even without its best player — during the week.
“I have confidence in the offense to perform at a high level with or without him,” McAdoo said. “We just have to prepare with the players we have practicing, and go play at a high level.”
It was easy to see that the Giants’ offense lacked the spark that Beckham usually provides in the first half, though. They went three-and-out on their first two possessions, managed just 4 net yards in the first quarter and 49 in the first half, and never came close to reaching Cowboys territory. Marshall might as well have been inactive, too, for the first half. Manning didn’t attempt a pass in the direction of the big free-agency acquisition until 1:27 was left in the second quarter, and it was incomplete.
The Cowboys led 16-0 at halftime on three field goals and a 12-yard TD pass from Dak Prescott to Jason Witten. Dallas ran 47 offensive plays to the Giants’ 19 in the half and had the ball for 20:33. That seemed to gas the Giants’ defense, which allowed 10 points in the final 1:41 of the second quarter.
Beckham had been listed as questionable on the injury report. The Giants were not optimistic he would be able to play as the game approached, but they still put him through the pregame paces to be certain.
He came onto the field with his teammates dressed in a gray hoodie with high white socks and stretched for several minutes under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman. He did light running, jumping and cutting.
When Manning and the other receivers began working on routes, Beckham was still off to the side. A meeting among McAdoo, Wellman, receivers coach Adam Henry and GM Jerry Reese took place, apparently agreeing to let him participate in the passing warm-ups.
He ran five routes before sharing a word or two with McAdoo. While he cut and stopped, he was clearly not running at full speed. After his sixth route, McAdoo pulled him aside for the fateful conversation.
Beckham seemed to concede his unreadiness. He ran one more route after that, a short fade into the end zone. Then he trotted to the other end of the field, exchanged pleasantries with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, then left to go back to the locker room.
Twenty minutes later, the Giants announced their seven inactive players, with Beckham included. It was the first time he has missed a game due to injury since the first four of his career, when he was nursing a pulled hamstring. He also missed a game due to suspension in 2015.
The Giants have an extra day this week to get Beckham ready for their Monday Night home opener against the Lions. Given his progress and barring a setback, it would seem to be enough time for Beckham to continue his round-the-clock rehab and be ready for action.
The countdown to that determination has already begun.