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Zealous Odell Beckham fans in dangerous push to get his autograph

Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach, spoke with media after training camp began on July 31, 2015 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Credit: Newsday / Tim Nwachukwu)

If ever there was a question about Odell Beckham Jr.'s star power, it was answered Friday.

Not by anything the wide receiver did on the field at the first practice of training camp, which included making a diving catch for a touchdown and grabbing a slant just before putting a series of cuts on defensive backs on his way to the end zone again. No, the real barometer took place after the workout when Beckham and the rest of the receivers were signing autographs for fans.

And that's what they were. Beckham. And the rest of the receivers.

Because judging from the swell of fans yearning to get a piece of number 13, to have him put his "O.B.'' in ink on their belongings, his really is the must-have autograph of the summer. Not even Victor Cruz received the kind of crush that Beckham faced in what was his first direct interaction with Giants fans since he became a superstar last fall.

That's not necessarily a good thing for everyone. It created a few moments of chaos and ugliness during the 45-minute signing period while Beckham made his way through a long alley packed with fans at what appeared to be the most attended open training camp practice since the team moved to their New Jersey complex from Albany.

Even before Beckham arrived, Giants staffers were instructing the crowd to be wary of kids along the fence. "Don't squish 'em!'' one yelled. "We're all Giants fans here. We have to take care of each other.''

That didn't always happen.

One female fan fell to the ground with a seizure only to have others step over and around her to try to get at Beckham (she was aided rather quickly by medical and security staff; the Giants said she was treated on site and released). At least five young children were brought to tears, pinned against the barricades that were supposed to keep them in line. One teenage girl in a body brace was crying while her father screamed at those who were pushing against her and her broken back.

Security, which included Giants staff and New Jersey State Police Officers, tried to alleviate hot spots of temper and dangerous situations. All the while Beckham made his way along the path, signing everything from jerseys (Giants, LSU, Pro Bowl) to basketballs and sneakers. There were hundreds of pictures of "The Catch'' and other drawings and renderings of the memorable play. Hats, shirts, notebooks, footballs -- everything was thrust at him. He calmly and wordlessly signed as many as he could, smiling for the occasional selfie.

The only time Beckham showed any sign that the crowd registered was when a fan dropped a wood plaque with a picture of him and it landed on Beckham's foot. He hopped up and down in discomfort for a moment and looked irritated. But he recovered and kept signing.

And then, just as Beckham was nearing the end of the long line and shortly after security had pointed out the heaving of the fences on the bleachers which were carrying the weight of the fans as they leaned forward, the aluminum platform where the fans were standing buckled with a loud pop.

They did not collapse, but bent several inches. There did not appear to be any injuries.

Beckham and Cruz, who was signing nearby, were immediately rushed from the area by the Giants staff and ran through a gate. The bleachers were cleared. The public autograph sessions ended and the players were taken to the relative security of the VIP area next to the Giants' main building.

Even there, Beckham was swarmed for autographs and had difficulty making his way through the thinner but equally excited crowd.

"According to Seating Solutions, the supplier of the bleachers, the shift was caused due to an unexpected surge in spectators," the Giants said in a statement. "Representatives and engineers from Seating Solutions will examine all of the bleachers surrounding the practice fields this evening and make any necessary adjustments."

The incident also forced the Giants to change their autograph sessions. They will now take place in the "Kids Zone" and not along the bleachers and will be limited to children 12 and under.

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