Odell Beckham Jr. made one thing very clear on Thursday.
He wants to play.
He doesn’t want to end the season on the sideline, doesn’t want to tap out on injured reserve and doesn’t want the Giants to shut him down with just two games remaining on the schedule.
“If I can play I’m going to play,” the wide receiver said. “That’s just the bottom line. You dreamed of being here. Dedicated, gave everything to being here. You do all this to play games.”
But with just 10 days remaining until the 2018 season is over, there remains a good chance that Beckham won’t see the field again. He’s likely to miss a third straight game on Sunday with a hematoma on his thigh – he hasn’t practiced since Dec. 6 – and that would leave just the finale against the Cowboys in Week 17 as an opportunity for him to return.
At one point this season Beckham was a candidate for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. Now he may not come back to game action until next September.
That doesn’t sit well with Beckham.
“I feel like I’ve missed enough games already,” he said of the two he has already sat out this year, the 11 he sat out last year with a fractured ankle, and the five others he missed in his career. The only season he played 16 games was 2016.
“As fun as meetings are and all that other stuff, you do all of this to play games,” he said. “So if I can play, I’m in there.”
All of those sentiments are nice. But they hinge on a very big if. One that will take a lot of WD-40 to swing freely.
Beckham expressed a reluctance to risk further injury by playing. He may want to return, but probably not until he is 100 percent healed. And certainly not until doctors can assure him that he will not be in danger of further damage. He had the initial bruise under control, Beckham has said, until he aggravated it extending himself while running in a practice.
“I feel like initially when this happened I didn’t think much of it and it might have been a little more serious than I thought,” he said. “I want to be able to finish the season as much as possible. But you just have to listen to [the injury]. Your body is going to tell you what you need to hear. I feel like there were times in the past that I didn’t listen to it and other things have happened.”
That’s the part pulling Beckham away from appearing in these final two games. The part tugging him toward it is his teammates.
“I want to play with Shep, Saquon, finish the season strong,” he said. “You get to play with your brothers. We started back in July and regardless of our record I always believe in finishing strong. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to finish strong in the last two weeks. But this is why you do it. You play for these people next to you. If I can play, I’ll play.”
On Thursday, Beckham did make some progress toward a return. For the first time since he stretched with the team last Wednesday, he joined them on (or at least beside) the practice field. He rode an exercise bike, did some light jogging and caught passes off a machine.
“He goes through the rehab each day with the attempt to get better,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He told me he feels better than he did last week, so we’ll see.”
“I’m trying to find my way back,” Beckham said. “You only get 16 opportunities to play games. Missing them is not fun…As fun as meetings are and all that other stuff, you do all of this to play games. So if I can play, I’m in there.”
Can he, though? With just one week left after this game?
Said Beckham: “I just don’t know at this point.”