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Odell Beckham Jr.’s role as returner still a possibility

Odell Beckham of the New York Giants celebrates

Odell Beckham of the New York Giants celebrates his touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Nov. 27, 2016 in Cleveland. Credit: Getty Images / Jason Miller

When it comes to using Odell Beckham Jr. on offense, everyone on the Giants is of the same philosophy: More is better. More touches, more catches, more touchdowns, more wins.

But now the Giants are faced with a special-teams problem. Exactly how much should they be using their best player — and, after Sunday’s demonstration, undoubtedly their best punt returner — in the sometimes dangerous job of fielding and running back punts?

Ben McAdoo suggested on Monday that using Beckham in that role will be a game-plan decision specific to opponents. “That’s not something I’m going to be talking about with all of you,” he told reporters.

Clearly, though, it’s on the table. Beckham was dazzling doing the job for the first time this season. He’d had only one return this season before Sunday’s game, when he had three that averaged a net of 11.7 yards. It seemed as if the Giants had just as much trouble keeping up with him as the Browns did, as two of his returns — including a 59-yarder for a touchdown — were negated by penalties. If the Giants are going to keep using Beckham as a returner, they’ll have to learn to block for his speed and changes of direction.

As all Giants fans of a certain age know, using valuable every-down players on special teams comes with a risk. Jason Sehorn is the prime example of that, having blown out his knee returning a preseason kickoff in 1998. He was never the same player after that.

The player Beckham would replace certainly is aware of the perils of the job.

“We really don’t want Odell back there because he’s a valuable asset to the offense and we’re trying to not get him injured,” Dwayne Harris said on Sunday.

In this case, though, the reward might be worth the possibility of injury. Especially given that Beckham rarely leaves the field on offense anyway.

“I think every play that they’re out there on the field is a risk,” McAdoo said.

What’s a few more snaps?

On the line

Injured left guard Justin Pugh (knee) did some rehab work on Monday, McAdoo said, but he added that it is “too soon to tell” if he’ll be able to practice or play this week. Pugh practiced last week but suffered a setback. He and his two backups, Brett Jones (calf) and Marshall Newhouse (knee), were inactive for the game against the Browns.

Adam Gettis got his first start in the NFL in place of the three injured guards. McAdoo said the team will not know much about anyone’s availability until the team takes the practice field for the first time Wednesday.

“Wednesday,” he said, “is an eternity away.”

Giant steps

Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard played 51 offensive snaps on Sunday but was not targeted with a pass. “It’s unfortunate that that’s the way the game went,” McAdoo said. “We would like to see all of our players touch the ball.” Shepard did have one 22-yard carry on an end-around that set up the last touchdown of the game . . . McAdoo would not say whether running back Shane Vereen, on injured reserve since Week 3 with a biceps injury, will practice this week. “We’ll wait and see,” McAdoo said. “We’ll take a look at that.” Vereen has been running and catching passes on the side during pregame stretches the last few weeks. The NFL Network reported that the Giants hope to have Vereen back for the Dec. 11 game against Dallas . . . Safety Nat Berhe and linebacker Mark Herzlich are in the concussion protocol for the Giants.


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