Odell Beckham Jr. turns 26 next month and is in his fifth NFL season, so let’s not kid ourselves: He is who he is, for better and worse, often both, as we have seen during the past several days.
So love him or hate him, cheer him or curse him, retweet him or delete him, or all of the above. But he is not going to change. OBJ is the wide receiver lightning rod of the moment, and where the next bolt will come from is anyone’s guess.
Whether this is good or bad for the Giants . . . it’s complicated. Depends on the game, or quarter, or play. And it depends on how much you weigh entertainment value over old-school football values.
After a week in which he criticized the team’s heart, energy, strategy and (maybe) quarterback in an interview with ESPN, then got a talking-to from his coach, then had to explain himself to his teammates, Beckham finally took the field at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
He proceeded to catch eight passes (on 14 targets) for 131 yards and his first touchdown of 2018, throw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley, drop a fourth-and-3 pass and muff a punt that bounced off his leg and led directly to a Panthers touchdown. He had another potential touchdown denied when a defender stripped him of the ball as he landed in the end zone.
Final: Panthers 33, Giants 31, on a 63-yard field goal by Graham Gano with one second left.
On a day of high drama, Beckham often was at the center of it, naturally.
Afterward, he reverted to recent form, trying to portray a calm and mature demeanor as he spoke to reporters.
Dumping on his teammates on national television with rapper Lil Wayne sitting beside him was off-message, but after slowly dressing — and wincing while holding his lower right side — he again was a picture of serenity.
He said he texted coach Pat Shurmur on Saturday and asked to talk in front of the team to explain himself.
“There was a part of me that was a little reluctant or didn’t want to because it’s a tough position and that’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “That’s part of the growth process I’m going through.”
Fair enough. He also said he had a private conversation with Eli Manning but would not say what it was about.
But Beckham also said that while his words “came out the wrong way,” he did not regret anything he said because he thought it lit a fire under the team, which reached 30 points for the first time in three seasons.
“If it took that to get us going, I can take that,” he said. “I’m trying to be a leader. I’m in a position I’ve never been in. I’m learning on the way, on the fly, but I’m proud of where we went today.”
So to review: Beckham felt a need to clarify what he said because of the firestorm it created, then credited it for inspiring an impressive losing effort.
Shrug. This is the receiver the Giants recently chose to reward with a five-year contract worth many tens of millions of dollars.
Beckham said his frustration with the alleged lack of energy has been “on my heart” since the loss to the Cowboys in Week 2. “I think all the stuff that was built up inside, it came out in the wrong way,” he said.
It landed him in front of four dozen or so men to whom he had some explaining to do.
“To be able to do that was big for me,” he said. “I was nervous to get up there. These are your brothers you see every day, but once you’re up there in front of all of them, it’s a little nerve-wracking.”
Nerve-wracking? Kind of like being a Giants executive, coach, player or fan with No. 13 in the house.