Ben McAdoo addressed the team on Wednesday with what Justin Pugh said was the most essential message of the season. It even gave the starting guard goose bumps.
“He came in and said: This is us in this room,” Pugh said of the speech at the team meeting. “No one outside is going to help. No one is coming to rescue us. These 53 are how we are going to win games . . . We’ve got to go out there and stick together.”
It was an important if not imperative reminder that the Giants are a team. They have gotten themselves into their current 2-2, last-place predicament, and they can pull themselves out of it. All of them. All 53. Not just the one guy who has been the focus of so much attention for the past two weeks.
That one guy is Odell Beckham Jr., the wide receiver who threw a tantrum on the sideline against Washington, drew a taunting flag against the Vikings, has yet to find the end zone this season, and has become the most psychologically diagnosed player in the NFL. Every sports commentator with a microphone or Internet access this week has seemingly weighed in on Beckham, from his former coach Tom Coughlin to Brett Favre to Dez Bryant. They all dissect how Beckham’s emotions shape his play, whether it is good or bad for the Giants, and what might happen as the season goes along.
There is also a perception that Giants veterans like Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, by publicly noting that his antics are costing the team yards and urging Beckham to bring it down a notch, have not supported him.
That, Pugh said, is the biggest misconception.
“He’s family for us,” Pugh said.
McAdoo told the media on Wednesday that Beckham has “great passion for the game and a great desire to be one heck of a player. One thing I’d hate to see him lose is that drive and that passion.”
Manning, speaking on Wednesday, said the only play he had a problem with Beckham making was last year when he launched himself at Josh Norman. He defended Beckham on the taunting call, saying he didn’t see anything that should have been flagged.
And yet the narrative on TV and radio suggests Beckham is a selfish powder keg poised to demolish the franchise.
“I feel bad that one person is being singled out,” Pugh said. “He’s not being a distraction. He’s emotional. There are emotional players all over this league. Obviously things aren’t going his way so there’s going to be a microscope on him and I feel bad that has to be the case.”
Pugh said he understands that it’s part of the deal. You win — especially in New York — and all is forgiven; you lose and the wounds are on display for all to see. That goes double for a player like Beckham who puts himself out as a product pitchman and part of the celebrity culture. Pugh also said he thinks it would be frustrating for a Pro Bowl player to suddenly not be able to produce at what had become a routinely high level.
“But,” Pugh said, “it’s tough to see a 23-year-old kid and every little thing he does is all over SportsCenter. They got nothing else to talk about besides Odell? It’s tough. Tough to see that as a teammate.”
As one of the 53 to another.