As the Giants begin their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and then head into their six-week vacation before the start of training camp in late July, the main story line isn’t about players or position battles or schemes or any of that. It’s about business. In particular, Odell Beckham Jr.’s business.
The looming negotiation of a contract extension with the star receiver heading into the final year of his rookie deal will be the main narrative for this team until, well, he signs a new one and there’s no reason for it to be one any longer. Will Beckham show up to training camp without a new contract? Will he play in any preseason games? Regular season games?
Beckham is, of course, somewhat used to being the center of attention. But having his potential contract be in that place with him is new, and that dynamic can take a toll on even the most level-headed of players.
Just ask Eli Manning.
The Giants quarterback who went through a negotiation for an extension just two summers ago when he was entering the final year of his deal was asked on Monday if such speculation can weigh on a player.
“Unfortunately it can,” the quarterback said. “Even though it wasn’t really something that was on my mind you just had to keep answering questions about it. It’s not something I discussed with people, but for whatever reason it becomes an issue. I didn’t harp on it, I didn’t worry about it, but the fact that it was in the papers or you had to answer about it, it can become a hassle.”
Manning, who spoke at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic at the Mount Kisco Country Club on Monday, did not seem concerned about Beckham’s future with the team. He spoke about having the receiver possibly cleared to take part in some drills during the upcoming minicamp (Beckham is still recovering from ankle surgery) and looked forward to the summer when he will be surrounded by all of the pieces the Giants have assembled for him, both old and new.
“It’s always good when you can get all your weapons and get the team out there with everything clicking and everybody working together,” Manning said. “That probably won’t come until training camp, but it’s still been good with all the guys. Evan Engram is playing well and Sterling Shepard, a couple new receivers, offensive line is doing good things, and Saquon [Barkley]. So there are still a lot of weapons and then you throw Odell in there and it should be better.”
During Manning’s last contract negotiation there was never a threat of a holdout or anything resembling animosity. And to be fair, there hasn’t been any direct indication of those things from Beckham, either. He’s been with the team for various parts of the voluntary portion of the offseason program, including OTAs and the first minicamp, and he is expected to be on the field in some capacity with the team this week. But that fragile peace can be shattered with just one absence, one Instagram post, one tweak of an ankle.
Manning’s contract issue lingered right up to the days before the regular season opener in 2016, when he signed the three-year extension that he is currently playing under. That’s when the business of football stopped being a distraction for Manning, and he knows that’s the only thing that will end the speculation for Beckham.
“Hopefully everything with Odell and that, whether it gets solved or whatever, it’s something that you don’t have to keep answering about it,” Manning said.
Until the contract is resolved, that seems unlikely.
Manning also spoke on a number of other topics at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic. Among them:
•Comments from former teammate Shaun O’Hara over the weekend that the Giants had “wasted” the prime years of Manning’s career by mismanaging the roster and not giving him enough support on the field. “I don’t look at it that way,” Manning said. “I appreciate those guys saying it. They’re teammates and I obviously won championships with both of them [O’Hara and Tuck who voiced similar support] so I think those guys are always loyal, but that’s not the way I look at it. I still think I have some peak years left, so we can make it right . . . I appreciate everything the Giants have done and I’m excited about being there this year and taking advantage of this year.”
•The Giants’ apparently renewed emphasis on throwing deep. “I think we’re trying to push the ball down the field when we can, so yeah, I’m excited about that,” he said. “Every quarterback wants to throw it down the field some. I think it’s something I’ve been pretty good at in the past. When you have the opportunities to push the ball down the field, you want to take advantage of those and hit those. They can be game-changing plays. It’s been fun to get back into that.” Asked who has the stronger arm on those deep passes, he or second-year quarterback Davis Webb, Manning said: “He can probably have that. He’s got a live arm. But that’s all right, I can get it far enough and strong enough to get it in the right spots and be on time.”
•His adjustment to a new offensive system for just the second time in his NFL career. “I feel good with the offense,” he said. “I really do. It makes sense. I can visualize it right when the coach starts calling it . . . I don’t want to say [it’s] simple, but it all has a little common sense to it. So I’m enjoying it, I’m learning from it. I enjoy Coach Shula and Coach Shurmur and picking their brains on certain calls and plays and how they see things. It’s been exciting and I think it’s going well.” He also said of Pat Shurmur: “Pat just has a way of trying to keep things very simple and not make it difficult. Kind of keep football simple in terms of making calls . . . The way he talks about football and the game and the Xs and Os of things, it’s fun to see the simplicity of it.”
•And the reaction he gets from fans — in particular a standing ovation at least week’s Town Hall event for season ticket holders — despite coming off a 3-13 season. “I think there’s some excitement for this year, which is good,” he said. “There are some changes, new players and new draft picks and free agents. Hopefully guys remember that two years ago we won 11 games. Last year obviously we went through a tough streak, but that’s football. It can change very quickly from year to year, from good to bad or from bad to good. I think it’s good to see that the fans are excited and I’m excited to be back and give them something to keep cheering for.”
Notes & quotes: The Giants signed T Jarron Jones (who was with them in training camp last summer) and DB Kenneth Durden on Monday and waived rookie T Tyler Howell.