CLEVELAND — Whew.
That was the collective sound emanating from the Giants’ locker room after Monday night’s 10-6 preseason loss to the Browns, a result made all the more inconsequential when Odell Beckham Jr. had to leave the game in the second quarter with what appeared at the time to be a rather substantial leg injury.
Though further tests will be done on the star receiver’s leg in the coming days, and he very well may have had his final snap of the preseason, as of Monday night, all indications pointed to a not-very-serious ankle sprain.
Asked if he was “relieved” to apparently have avoided a serious injury, Beckham said: “That’s a great word.”
Giants fans likely were mumbling other less polite words about two hours earlier. That’s when Beckham went up in the air for an 18-yard pass from Eli Manning and Browns safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun made the tackle by diving low at Beckham’s left knee. His left cleat seemed to catch on the grass and his leg flexed awkwardly.
“Pretty scary,” Beckham said.
He was slow to get up. He removed his helmet and started to walk off the field before pausing and taking a knee. That was enough to launch a cavalry of trainers to get him off the field.
Beckham soon was back on his feet and walked to the sideline under his own power. After a brief conversation in the bench area, he put a towel over his head and began to walk to the locker room with a slight limp.
Beckham began to jog to the tunnel, but when he got to the closed locker-room doors, he slumped to the floor into a somewhat prayerful pose. That’s where ESPN’s camera caught up with him and captured the troubling image. The trainers eventually reached him and brought him into the locker room for examination. He later was taken for X-rays, which were negative.
Eventually, the picture changed for the better. Beckham was on the sideline for the second half of the game in shorts and a sweatshirt, walking without any limp. He even jogged briskly into the locker room and through the doors where he earlier had crumbled.
“When I saw him walk off the field, it was a blessing,” safety Landon Collins said. “Not many guys can walk away from a hit like that, especially straight on the knee and their cleat gets stuck in the ground. Not many guys can walk away from that. God blessed him with strong bones and he continues to look out for him . . . Just to see the smile on his face and talk to him and know he was all right. He gets to play another down this season, so I’m glad to have that feeling of relief.”
Collins, though, clearly was upset by the hit from Boddy-Calhoun, a second-year safety. They exchanged words when the defense came on the field for the first time after the injury.
“It’s not a penalty, but that’s something you don’t do,” Collins said. “You got an opportunity to make a play on the ball . . . He could have hit him high, but he chose a different route. I can’t respect him. That’s the last option if you can’t make a play on the ball. That’s not how you do it. If you want to get your name known that way, that’s how you do it.”
Coach Ben McAdoo did not have an issue with the hit. “It’s football,” he said. “You can’t hit a guy high, you can’t hit a guy low . . . It’s a tough play for a DB.”
The hit on Beckham was the second questionable one on a Giants receiver. In the first quarter, Manning lofted a deep pass down the right sideline for Brandon Marshall. He seemed to sense the convergence of ball and defender and pulled up rather than extend for the incomplete pass, but rookie safety Jabrill Peppers hit him hard and spun Marshall around awkwardly.
A flag was thrown but was picked up. Marshall stayed in the game for the rest of the half but had shoulder X-rays at halftime. He did not return to the field and said he was “sore” as he left the locker room.
By then, the Giants were ecstatic that Beckham had rejoined them on the bench. “When I saw that,” guard Justin Pugh said, “I knew we were good.”