Eli Manning chose to do what he’s always done: He covered for a teammate.
It’s a courtesy he wasn’t afforded by Odell Beckham Jr. last week in the now infamous sitdown interview with ESPN in which the wide receiver gave a firm “I don’t know” regarding his quarterback and spoke about how Manning’s lack of mobility in the pocket limits the Giants’ offense.
Manning on Monday evening said he did not see the interview, and he gave his reason.
“I don’t watch Lil Wayne much,” he said of the rapper who was Beckham’s sidekick for the interview.
It’s the same kind of response he gave two years ago when Beckham and other wide receivers went to Miami for a night of partying before their last playoff appearance. When photos of them wearing jeans and no shirts on a yacht surfaced, Manning said he was disappointed … that they forgot to pack shorts and T-shirts.
One-liners and rim-shots can cover a lot of indiscretions.
Or can they?
What Beckham said – and what he left unsaid with shrugs and demurring uncertainty – was not just a transgression. It was biting commentary about everything from the quarterback to the coaching to the locker room environment to the weather patterns in New York City. It seemed less like he was trying to light a fire under the Giants than he was trying to burn them down.
Not everything can be unsaid. That’s true in every relationship, whether it be business or marriage or locker room. So once his chuckle-inducing reaction was out of the way, how did Manning choose to address that?
By praising Beckham.
“Odell, having him address the team and set the record straight from his point of view, I think that was smart and big by him,” Manning said. “Getting in that situation and kind of own up to what was going on and set the record straight so we can avoid the distractions, avoid this and that, and just worry about playing football.”
Most Giants players were accepting of Beckham’s explanation when he did talk to them over the weekend. Very few of them likely knew the full extent of the comments. It did not air fully until Sunday morning on EPSN. By then, most Giants were probably too engrossed in their pregame routines to notice.
Some, like Manning – who insisted he did not see the interview, Lil Wayne or not – probably ignored it. Others undoubtedly parsed the words and reactions as closely as the fans who watched it.
Manning, who has gone out of his way to avoid being critical of teammates for a decade and a half, said he was not personally hurt by Beckham’s commentary (or at least the gist of it which was relayed to him). He said he and Beckham spoke at length over the weekend and again on Monday.
“We talk a lot,” Manning said. “We’re always close and we’re tight and we’re on good terms.”
Manning even partially dismissed the situation as simply the way things go in the NFL these days. Beckham is far from the only player whose public discontent has become swirling story lines around his team.
“When you get a guy who, with social media now and the ability you have to reach the crowd, that you can express your opinions about everything on a whim, it can cause more drama,” he said. “That’s just the world we’re living in and how you deal with it.”
What the last few days have shown, if anything, is just how differently Beckham deals with it as opposed to Manning. Maybe the universe of pro sports is changing and Beckham is ushering in a new way of handling things. Publicly. Out in the open.
If that’s the case, Manning may have to hire a joke writer to come up with more zingers to defuse whatever conflagrations await him for the rest of his time in the NFL and with the Giants.