“Get up, 13! Get up!”
That was the singular voice that echoed through a suddenly silent fieldhouse during Giants practice Sunday morning, and although it was just one player making the statement, he undoubtedly spoke for the entire organization.
Odell Beckham Jr., the jewel of the franchise and one of the NFL’s most dynamic players, was on the ground struggling to get to his feet. He’d gone up to battle for a deep pass with cornerback Janoris Jenkins and the two came down in a tangled pile of panic.
Jenkins quickly stood up and jogged away.
Beckham? He was swarmed by an army of trainers and medical staff who sprinted to him and began working on the area around his left ankle.
“Get up, 13! Get up!”
Eventually he did, though very gingerly. He did not return to any drills for the remainder of practice, looked hobbled as he stretched and rubbed the area, and took the ominous ride on the cart to the training room.
Finally, the Giants received good news. Their best player had been cleated and had suffered a few cuts and scrapes but should be fine moving forward.
Giants players have a day off Monday and return to practice Tuesday, and there is a chance he will be on the field with them. “There are plenty more days in camp, so we’ll be all right,” he said. “A minor setback for the time being, I guess.”
“He’s probably going to be sore for a couple of days,” Ben McAdoo said. “When something happens to any of your players, your heart is in your throat. We were fortunate there.”
It was a reminder of just how tenuous the optimism that has otherwise surrounded this Giants training camp can be. Behind all the talk about putting a fifth trophy in the case and ending a four-year playoff drought is the specter of where things went awry in recent seasons. General manager Jerry Reese said Sunday that the team has gone to great lengths to avoid “the injury bug.”
On Sunday, it almost stung them right through the heart.
After the incident, Beckham spoke to reporters with his left ankle wrapped and assured everyone he will be fine. He said Jenkins did nothing wrong on the play. He said he took the ride on the cart mostly to avoid the phalanx of photographers who were poised for the money shot as he limped by.
And in perhaps the greatest coincidence (or marketing ploy) of the situation, he said his cleats, custom-painted, were designed to look as if they were dripping with blood. So when the real blood showed up on them from the lacerations?
“It kind of just matched and blended in,” Beckham said. That must have startled the trainers when they first arrived on the scene.
Despite the scare, the Giants and Beckham seem to remain on track for their shared goals. He spoke candidly about the only thing that has avoided him in his athletic life. “I’ve never been able to call myself a champion,” he said, recalling a number of brushes with the title.
At LSU he played for an NCAA championship and lost. In pee wee football, he said, he scored what he thought was a championship-clinching touchdown that was called back because of a penalty. And in fourth grade, he said, he hit a half-court shot to win a basketball championship, only to have the referee wave it off as too late.
This year, more so perhaps than his first two in the NFL, Beckham feels as if he has an opportunity to finally reach the top. He’s obviously a big part of that half-full vibe throughout the team. “I can’t explain how excited I am about that, being on a team where you feel a winning atmosphere, a team that has a chance to really compete this year,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been a decent player all my life on some great teams, but I’ve never been able to put the icing on the cake.”
As of Sunday, a few scrapes on his ankle weren’t going to stop that quest.