CLEVELAND — Odell Beckham knelt down in agony in the tunnel of FirstEnergy Stadium during Monday night’s second quarter with what looked like a potentially catastrophic leg injury.
But by the end of the Giants’ 10-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Beckham was so “relieved” he had only sprained his left ankle that he was sarcastically mocking a question of whether he’d be ready for the Week 1 opener in Dallas.
“I don’t know, man. I’m pretty concerned, but I think I’ll be alright,” Beckham joked, with a mischievous smile beneath his floppy gold hair and matching headphones. “It feels like a sprained ankle, a rolled ankle. I don’t know. You ever hurt your ankle? That’s what it feels like.”
Beckham also acknowledged he’d been put through the concussion protocol but passed with flying colors.
“They asked me a couple questions, but I know what today is, I know what happened yesterday, I know who we played last week, so I think I’ll be alright,” he said.
And in unison, every Giants coach, teammate and fan exhales, right? Well, not so fast.
The Giants did say Beckham “will undergo further examination,” presumably an MRI to also check his knee, which bent awkwardly on the low-but-legal hit by Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Plus, Brandon Marshall also underwent X-rays on his shoulder, and though he tweeted an emoji of a flexed bicep, the Giants could not provide an update before flying home to New Jersey.
All in all, this felt a little like the Giants’ own personal solar eclipse. And Beckham probably began Monday thinking that staring into the sun from his hotel room with no glasses was his biggest worry. Suddenly he was grasping at his leg on the football field in his first action of the entire preseason, fearing the worst.
“Pretty scary,” Beckham admitted.
What’s most frightening, though, is that Eli Manning’s first-team offense was putrid even with Beckham on the field, just as it had been in last year’s preseason debut at Buffalo, prior to ranking 26th of 32 teams in the 2016 regular season. And if Beckham’s 2017 season is impacted negatively at all by this injury, the offense’s low ceiling could collapse and squeeze the life out of Big Blue entirely, no matter how good the defense is.
Plus, for Beckham, this is also about his career. He skipped OTAs in the spring to demonstrate that he wants a new contract to pay him compensatory to his value and to secure his future, and this is why he had every right to do so: it all could be gone in a flash.
“That is why Odell wants a new contract,” tweeted former NFL receiver Cris Carter, a Beckham advocate.
Beckham is making only $1.8 million in this fourth year of a five-year rookie contract, while Antonio Brown averages $17 million per for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“This is why I hate preseason Bullsh*t…,” tweeted Miami Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, one of Beckham’s best friends and a former teammate at LSU.
Beckham, 24, made it clear both on the field and in the locker room that he did not appreciate Boddy-Calhoun’s hit. When he first got up, he fired the ball on the grass at the Browns corner and then stared him down as he walked off the field. And after, he implied the preseason called for more discretion.
“I don’t know. It’s just football I guess. Preseason, so …” Beckham said, trailing off and shrugging his shoulders.
Presumably, Beckham now will sit out Saturday night against the Jets at MetLife Stadium, even though the starters typically play the most in the third preseason game. At least he should.
McAdoo’s answer was: “If he can play, he’ll play.” Beckham’s answer was: “It’s up to coach and the training staff. We’ll see where we go from here, but I’m going there tomorrow and we’ll get a look at it.”
But there is no use risking anything. Beckham is so important to the Giants because his game-breaking ability is all that bailed the offense last year out of its terrible running game, spotty pass protection and turnovers. And one year later, it’s looking like he might have to counter those same deficiencies in the offense again.
When Beckham is down, the Giants are down. Without him, the hype feels hollow. With No. 13 on the sideline, with no running game to speak of, the Giants’ chances would feel pretty slim.