There’s always that little nagging doubt that creeps in when a talented athlete suffers a devastating injury. Can he come back? And if he does, will he ever be the same?
For Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants’ $95-million man, the answer to the first question is yes, of course. And to the second: He sure hopes not.
After missing most of last season because of a broken ankle — and at the same time proving how invaluable he is to the Giants — Beckham returned a much richer but very different man. Or at least that’s what he’s going for.
On the field, the results were the same. Playing against the Jaguars, a team that allowed only one 100-yard receiver last year (Antonio Brown), Beckham had 11 catches for 111 yards. That put him at 324 career receptions, the most of any wide receiver through his first 50 games.
But the other stuff — the controversy that seemed to follow him around like an overeager puppy during his first few years in the NFL — has changed, he said.
“I’m just in a different place,” he said. “I’m hoping to be better. That’s obviously the goal . . . I [mean] it more from an emotional standpoint. In the past, there’s been a lot of things that have gone on and I just haven’t had the best way of handling it. I kind of was hoping there was a moment [in the game] where I was tested and I was going to be able to see where I’ve grown and how much growth there has been.”
Beckham mentioned that more than once in his postgame news conference. He prayed, he said, that something would happen early in the game where he “had to dig deep and find out where I am.” Almost disappointed, he said it didn’t happen, because “things were going my way early.”
Though most took it for granted that Beckham would be back from his injury without issue, it doesn’t mean that the early end to 2017 didn’t affect him in a big way.
“Once you see everything flashing before you, and you don’t know if you’re going to be the same person again, you don’t know if football is going to be the same again — I just got a different perspective,” he said.
That seems to mean a renewed appreciation for his place in the football hierarchy, even if things don’t go exactly his way. “Just being out there and competing with the best [is great],’’ he said. “I wish we would have gotten the win.”
Beckham had two prime opportunities to score his first touchdown of the season, but he was overthrown by Eli Manning twice in the end zone. Still, Manning said, his timing with Beckham was good. Beckham indicated it is a work in progress.
“I feel like every day at practice, Eli and I have been getting open and finding ways to separate,” Beckham said. “Now it’s about putting all the pieces together. He needs a little bit more time. We need to find a way to make those catches on third down. We need to find ways to keep drives alive.
“We went into the first game and unfortunately, the ball didn’t roll our way. Like we said, it’s a good starting point.”
A starting point for the Giants. A starting point for the offense.
And another starting point for Beckham, it seems.
Odell Beckham Jr. did everything but get into the end zone in his first game since last October. His overall numbers:
LONG GAIN 24