Eli Manning may have insisted that he is not sick of Odell Beckham Jr.’s antics, but you can rest assured that the Rams are.
The same Rams that were the first team to get under Beckham’s skin in his rookie year with a series of extra hits and late blows that led to an eventual brawl between the teams and changed the entire tenor of the Beckham narrative from beloved one-handed catcher to hot-headed mischief-maker.
That’s why as the Giants prepare to face those same Rams — now from a different city and in a game in a different country, but still a team with a reputation for aggressive chippiness that was on display when they rushed the Lions in victory formation at the end of Sunday’s loss — they are mustering behind Beckham.
“We know what happened in that game two years ago when we played there,” guard Justin Pugh said. “Obviously they were trying to get after him and hit him, so we have to make sure that we go out there and play within the whistles and make sure that we are protecting our guys at the same time. Obviously we have to make sure that this game is more focused on going out and playing football than fighting.”
But the Giants will be ready for both.
“I mean, they are going to try and stop him,” Pugh said. “By any means necessary I guess is their motto. I watched them on ‘Hard Knocks,’ so you kind of see what kind of mentality they have in those rooms.”
One former Rams player said he never heard any direct initiatives from the coaches there to instigate opponents.
“They didn’t preach that,” said new Giants CB Coty Sensabaugh, released from the Rams earlier this month. “They coached us to play from whistle to whistle.”
Yet they often go past the second one. Coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams both have reputations for such strategies, and there seems to be little doubt that they will try to follow the blueprint that they established in 2014 for slowing down Beckham. In the past two games the Packers and Ravens did not engage the star receiver with that style of play, but Washington and Minnesota in the weeks previous both did with varied levels of success.
Now it’s the Rams’ turn. Again.
“We have to understand, we have to be smart and play football,” Manning said. “We don’t need the extracurricular activities. We just have to go out there and do our job and keep it about football and it shouldn’t be that hard.”
Manning spent a good portion of his Tuesday media availability walking back comments he made about Beckham during a weekly radio segment on Monday. Asked about Beckham’s sideshow performances after his touchdowns, Manning said: “It’s one of those deals where, hey, you can get real sick of it if he’s not going out there and making plays.”
On Tuesday, Manning said he was not being critical of his star receiver and that it was simply a pronoun problem.
“I’m not tired of it,” he said. “I thought you all might get tired of it. That was my comment. They took the ‘you’ and thought it was me, but I was talking about you.”
Manning went on to defend Beckham, saying he is “doing a lot of good things, he’s playing the game the right way” and that the two of them are “on the same page.” He even said he enjoys the theatrics which have included an odd anthropomorphic relationship with the kicking net.
“I want him to play well, I want him to make plays, I want him to have celebrations and dances and I’m fine with that,” Manning said. “The net stuff doesn’t bother me. You can do whatever you want in that sense if it’s not getting penalized, if it’s not looking bad for the organization or for the team.”
Manning insisted that he is not trying to drive home any message to Beckham with what seems to be a steady flow of comments on the receiver’s behavior.
“Hey,” he shrugged, “I get asked about him a lot.”