If anyone knows what it’s like to play wide receiver under the bright lights of New York, it’s Amani Toomer and Wesley Walker. Both played their entire NFL careers with the Giants and Jets, Toomer with Big Blue from 1996-2008 and Walker with Gang Green from 1977-89.
So who better to ask about the Giants’ blockbuster Odell Beckham Jr. trade this offseason.
One was surprised. One wasn’t.
“I was so surprised,” Toomer said. “You don’t get rid of a player that great. We didn’t get enough back. I don’t understand how that makes you better. It’s a tough thing to swallow.”
Toomer called Beckham a “good dude” and joked that some of his franchise receiving records were intact now that Beckham is in Cleveland.
Walker saw the trade from a different perspective.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Walker said. “I love Odell Beckham’s talent but I didn’t like his antics that came with it. [The Giants] finally got fed up.”
Toomer and Walker were on hand Thursday night at Newsday’s Live Event at its Melville headquarters. The NFL event was the fifth in the Newsday Live series, with a sixth on MMA scheduled for this fall, Newsday communications manager Kim Como said.
The receivers also addressed their former teams’ current quarterback situations.
With Eli Manning possibly playing his final season, Toomer said he “doesn’t see him changing” his approach, even with No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones waiting in the wings. “I haven’t seen the decline,” Toomer said of Manning. He added that he wasn’t surprised they went quarterback in the draft, but thought they’d take Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State.
Toomer was a part of the Giants’ 2004 team that made the switch from Kurt Warner to Manning in Week 11. The Giants were 5-4 and still in the playoff hunt when the rookie Manning was given the job. “The whole team was upset. He just wasn’t ready,” said Toomer, who had 668 catches for 9,497 yards and 54 touchdowns, 17 of those from Manning.
The 2004 Giants lost six in a row before finishing 6-10. “Ultimately he was ready the next year,” said Toomer, who also was asked about the famous David Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII: “I was open on that play.”
Walker thinks Sam Darnold, the Jets’ second-year quarterback, is ready to take the next step, but said it will depend on how he adjusts to the new coaching staff.
“I like Sam. He definitely has all the attributes you’re looking for in a quarterback,” said Walker, who had 438 catches for 8,306 yards and 71 touchdowns.
Walker, wearing a pistachio blazer -- “Go Jets!” he said -- has dealt with his fair share of pain in his post-NFL life. Walker, 64, said he had back surgery in 2014 (10 screws and one rod), neck surgery in 2007 (14 screws and one plate) and has had his shoulders done and his Achilles.
He said Tuesday’s passing of Nick Buoniconti, the 78-year-old former Dolphins great, “broke my heart. He wore that No. 85 like me. How did a linebacker get that number?”
Buoniconti blamed his diminishing health on his football playing days, something Walker said himself when he was featured in Newsday’s “Life After Football” series.
While Toomer and Walker had different opinions on the Beckham trade, they agreed the new pass interference rules could slow the game down too much. Not surprisingly, both receivers said the same thing: “You could call pass interference on every play.”