The acrimony is still fresh, the emotions still raw.
The wounds on both sides of the Odell Beckham divorce from the Giants may never fully heal, with Beckham making it clear in a recent interview in GQ magazine that he’s still bitter about how — and why — the trade went down in the first place.
He blamed coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman. And Shurmur and Gettleman aren’t happy rekindling discussions about parting ways with a potential Hall of Fame receiver who once was the best thing about this team.
“No more Odell questions,” a clearly agitated Gettleman said the other day when a reporter attempted to revisit the trade. Even Eli Manning threw in a parting shot, telling NFL Network in an interview last week, “I won a few games before he was here.”
Like it or not, though, Beckham remains a part of the Giants’ locker room, even if he isn’t there physically. He is very much there in spirit.
“You see it every day with people like (wide receiver) Sterling (Shepard) and (tight end) Evan (Engram),” said Giants receiver Russell Shepard. “Odell’s work habits, the way he worked with people. Everyone had their different experiences with him, but the one thing that everybody can definitely say about Odell is that he practiced his butt off, whether it was a walk-through, a Wednesday, Thursday or a Friday practice. You don’t get to that level that he got to without practicing.”
Beckham will always be a part of Sterling Shepard, who will be the centerpiece of the Giants’ receiving corps after signing a $41 million contract extension in the off-season.
“I’ve been groomed for this moment,” he said.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Beckham — both on and off the field — Sterling was a consistent defender of his flamboyant teammate. Nothing Beckham ever said or did negatively impacted his standing among almost all his teammates, although Manning is one notable exception, since he was occasionally the object of Beckham’s criticism, subtle though it might have been.
“I love Odell,” Shepard told Newsday last season. “He’s always been great to me. A great teammate. A great friend.”
“Odell left a lot with the young guys out here,” Russell Shepard said. “He’s not a big guy. He’s not a 4.2 (in the 40) guy, but he’s a very skillful guy, and you get that way by practicing day-in and day-out and taking your craft seriously. The guys here will remember that.”
Love him or hate him — and that seemed to be the binary choice among many Giants’ fans through much of Beckham’s five seasons in New York — Beckham was unquestionably a respected and beloved teammate. And his influence will unquestionably be extended to this year’s team, even though he’s not on it.
“He’s a very down-to-earth person, a good man,” said Russell Shepard, a Beckham teammate at LSU as well as the Giants. “He was a great locker room guy. He spoke to the (defensive) linemen, the quarterbacks, to the undrafted guys. He’s a really good person. A lot of times when things get passed around (in the media), it’s a different story. But he’s a good guy, works his butt off and did some great things for this organization.”
Shepard, who remains a close friend of Beckham’s, confirmed that the receiver had mixed emotions about the trade, although Beckham himself admitted in the GQ interview that he had hoped to be traded, even after signing a $90 million contract extension last year.
“Definitely there was sadness with him,” Shepard said. “He didn’t think that we wanted to trade him. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s a business.”
But Shepard believes that the animus on both sides will eventually soften, and that Beckham will one day be welcomed back to the team.
“I would like for it to be a lot better for him and for the Giants organization, but this organization is amazing, and Odell is an amazing person himself,” Shepard said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he will come back here one day and be celebrated. At this point, there’s a lot of other things going on, a lot of other people in the middle of the situation.”
It’s hard to see that day coming — at least in the near term — but time may ultimately heal these wounds.
“When it’s all said and done,”Russell Shepard said, “I think both sides will make the best of it.”