Eli Manning isn’t too bothered by the new cornerback in the division, and he doesn’t think his best receiver will be, either.
Washington’s surprise addition of Josh Norman created an instant rivalry between him and Odell Beckham Jr., the two players whose duel in December turned ugly and led to Beckham’s one-game suspension. Now that they will be scheduled to face each other twice a season, all eyes will be on the two players when they face off again.
Well, almost all eyes.
“It’s not going to be a battle between Odell and Josh,” Manning said Sunday. “We’re not going to make that a point. It’s about winning the football game, doing our job and doing it well. We’ll game-plan for him just like all the other corners, but we have to be sure not to make it a bigger deal so it doesn’t escalate into something that’s not about football.”
The Giants had similar rhetoric last season leading up to the infamous game against Carolina. It did little to defuse the two hot-headed players. From the opening snap, they were in each other’s face, and by the third quarter, flags were being thrown at Beckham for nasty launches at Norman’s head.
Manning said he believes Beckham learned from that experience. “He was more about himself and more about the individual battle between he and Josh,” Manning said. “That’s not what football is about. It’s about doing what is best for the team and playing within the rules. I think he understands you can’t do that, you can’t get away with it. It’s bad for the team, bad for him, bad for football. I think he’s definitely learned from that and he’ll be fine.”
Beckham hasn’t completely disengaged from the spat. Last month, Norman was on ESPN and described Beckham as “OK.” That led to Beckham tweeting about the perceived slight and suggesting that it was Beckham’s star that provided Norman the glow of a spotlight.
“That boy should thank me for all I’ve done for you!!! Your welcome tho . . . Lol” he posted.
Norman responded, posting his own tweet directly to Beckham that referenced Beckham’s friend, the recording artist Drake. “So wassup?” he wrote.
And that was when the two had no idea they would be facing each other in 2016. Now they’re both in the NFC East.
Norman became a surprise free agent last week when the Panthers abruptly rescinded his franchise tag. That made him an unrestricted free agent, and Washington swooped in to nab him with a monster contract reportedly worth $75 million over five years. He joins a secondary that already was anti-Beckham. Cornerback Chris Culliver last week described Beckham as “probably the most complaining person I’ve went against.”
Despite all the vitriol and history, Manning said he probably will not make a point of discussing the situation with Beckham before the Week 3 matchup with Washington. Of course, Beckham won’t need reminding.
“I think he’ll be answering questions about it,” Manning said. “Coach [Ben] McAdoo and the receiver coach will all be in his ear a little bit. I don’t think he needs too many people. It’s my job to make sure he’s ready to go, he’s confident and he can go out there and play well.”
Notes & quotes: Manning spoke at the annual March of Dimes March for Babies, an event he has lent his name and support to for nine years and helped raise more than $2 million. “The mission is to make sure every baby gets a healthy start in life,” he said. “Having three little girls of my own, I understand the importance of healthy babies, and the March of Dimes does great work.”
. . . The Giants have spent most of the offseason rebuilding their defense, and Manning said he will not be too upset if that project continues with this week’s draft. “I’m fine having a great defense,” he said. “They can get more sacks and get more stops and get more turnovers and we can have more possessions; that helps out the team. The better the defense, it can only help the offense out, so I’m excited about that.” Still, he is a quarterback. “If they want to throw a receiver or a lineman in, hey, I’m always happy to take as many offensive draft picks as possible,” he said. “But I don’t get too caught up in it. Whoever comes in, we’ll get to work and make it work.”