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New York Giants’ Odell Beckham facing brighter spotlight than he ever dreamed

Beckham says that football is his “sanctuary”

Odell Beckham speaks to reporters on Tuesday
Photo by Ed Valentine

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Every move Odell Beckham Jr. makes is scrutinized by both headline-hungry media and social media know it alls. Every immature on field transgression is dissected, every woman he is photographed with becomes tabloid fodder, every event he attends becomes something worth talking about. That’s heady stuff for someone who, while he has had worldwide celebrity thrust on him, is still just a bubbly 23-year-old football player enjoying the life he has earned.

On Tuesday, Beckham sounded like he has come to terms with the fact that everything he does, everywhere he goes and everyone he is seen with will be fodder for public discussion and judgment.

“I feel like it kind of comes with the territory — I feel like if I hid under a rock for 364 days and I came out on the 365th and someone saw me somewhere, there’s going to be a story about it,” Beckham said. “Something is going to happen, I’m going to hear about it, it’ll be here and it’ll be there. I think people just need something to talk about sometimes, so …”

Beckham has made offseason headlines for living with the rapper Drake and for being seen at a nightclub getting cozy with Khloe Kardashian. Perhaps the best thing for Beckham is the daily grind of football. Which, incidentally, he won't have for six weeks once minicamp ends on Thursday.

“It’s great to get back to football, but at the end of the day, I hate that that causes so much distraction for my team and for myself,” Beckham said. “Especially when a lot of the stuff is not so much true, and there’s just all kinds of things that they come up with. It’s what comes with the territory, though, so … I just have to get used to it.”

The Giants have gotten used to Beckham’s greatness on the field, to him doing things no wide receiver in franchise history and few in NFL history, have ever done. What no one wants is for the distractions, on field ones like his tete a tete with Josh Norman last year or the off field craziness and speculation about Beckham falling under the Kardashian Curse, to derail a potentially historic career.

A reporter on Tuesday mentioned to Beckham that he seemed perhaps more subdued on the field during workouts this spring than he has been in the past. Beckham didn’t disagree.

“Yeah, it’s tough. And I’ve talked to coaches about it and just stuff like that because at the end of the day, this is my sanctuary — this is where I come and I feel free,” Beckham said. “This is my getaway from all the outside distraction that this world provides. This is the only place where I can’t be bothered or … I’m really just free when I get out here. I feel like a kid again.”

Beckham has always been a showman. He has always played with a flair that has made him part entertainer along with being an incredible player. It has also, quite obviously, rubbed some opponents the wrong way.

The Giants have always wanted Beckham to learn to entertain fans and enjoy himself on the field without drawing unnecessary or unwanted attention from opponents and officials. How do you do that, though, without taking away the edge that makes him great. That allows Beckham to be Beckham?

Coach Ben McAdoo said he, in his role at the time as offensive coordinator, “should have been better” when Beckham earned a one-game suspension for his confrontations with Norman last season vs. the Carolina Panthers. What McAdoo won’t do, however, is interfere in how Beckham — or any player — leads his personal life.

“They’re grown men. You have to trust players with their personal lives and the decisions they make,” McAdoo said during OTAs. “If they ask for advice, we’ll certainly be willing to lend a hand.”

Beckham has had to grow up in the glare of a harsh spotlight where, quite honestly, we know that there are some who would enjoy watching Beckham implode, enjoy watching him become a caricature who makes more headlines off the field than he does on it.

There is no indication that will happen. Beckham talks a lot about wanting to win, wanting to bring championship football back to the Giants. He seems to still have his focus on football, on having the great career his spectacular first two seasons indicate he can have. He is, however, going to have to do it while handling the TMZ/social media spotlight that comes along with it.

“I remember coming into the league, I wanted … there were guys, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, guys who are brothers in my class. They’re guys who I compete against, who I wanted to be talked about the way that they were talked about. I was like, ‘Man, they never talk about me,’ “ Beckham said. “And I tell people now, be careful what you ask for, because I used to crave that — I used to want to be talked about and people to know what I was capable of, and now it’s like they want to know everything. They want to know each and every detail, and like I said, I really tell them just be careful what you ask for.”

For Beckham, there is no going back. All the Giants can do is hop he can handle the spotlight that follows him around. My guess is that he can.

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