EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Tom Coughlin always prefers to look ahead, but today he opened his start-of-the-work-week news conference not with a rundown of the Minnesota Vikings, but with some thoughts on the ongoing Odell Beckham Jr. controversy.
Beckham was suspended on Monday for one game by the NFL for his actions in the previous day's loss to the Carolina Panthers, when he and cornerback Josh Norman engaged in a nasty game-long battle that included extracurricular hits by both players. They received five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties between them.
"To depict this as Odell Beckham being wrong, and the only one wrong, is not right," Coughlin said. "It's not fair, it's not justice, it's not the way it was. If you're naïve enough to think that way, then you better do some soul-searching yourself. Beckham certainly was wrong, and we said he was wrong from day one. But there were factors involved, starting in pregame, which are well-documented, which indicate that there was an attempt to provoke him. He was provoked, he was out of control, he was wrong, there's no doubt about it. You'd like that that didn't happen. But the fact of the matter is, if you know that, the situation pregame with the baseball bat (which a Panthers player carried onto the field during warmups), and if you know what occurred at the very beginning of the game, you can understand that there was two sides to this and not just one. And that's the only thing I'll say about that incident."
Well, he did say a bit more when reporters asked questions he clearly would have preferred not to field.
Beckham is appealing the suspension, and Coughlin said he was not at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center today. Coughlin said he spoke to Beckham before the suspension was announced.
"He felt bad, that's probably the best way I can say it," Coughlin said. "He felt bad."
Asked if he was aware of the pregame "stuff," Coughlin said, "I was standing on the sideline when the individual went by with the baseball bat. But I did not see the entering the ranks and that type of thing."
The Giants took the practice field today not knowing if Beckham will be available for a game they might need to win to stay alive in the NFC East title chase (if Washington loses Saturday night in Philadelphia).
"Move forward, you've got to go forward, period," Coughlin said. "Obviously, you'd like to have that player with you. But if in fact it doesn't happen, we have to think of our team as well, which we're trying to do."
Has Coughlin talked to the team about the potential distractions that come with Beckham's suspension?
"In specifics, no," he said. "But they were aware of the hearing or whatever you call it, and the fact that none of us know what the result is. At that point in time, I'll be sure to make them understand.
Coughlin has wide receiver issues beyond Beckham. Dwayne Harris, who is fourth on the team with 35 receptions, and the leading return specialist, is still nursing a sore shoulder.
"He's a little bit sore today," Coughlin said. "I can tell you I was expecting that he would be in a little better shape today. It's Wednesday, we'll see what happens."
If Beckham does not play, each of the other receivers will be counted on to do more, including Rueben Randle, Harris, Myles White, rookie Geremy Davis and Hakeem Nicks, who has one reception in each of the four games since joining the team last month.
Is Nicks ready to take on a larger role? "He will have to be," Coughlin said.
Playmakers on the Vikings first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
• Coughlin praised Nikita Whitlock, the fullback/defensive tackle who was placed on injured reserve after hurting his knee in the Carolina game.
"I'll tell you, what he did for the last two weeks as a lead blocker was very good," Coughlin said. "So we miss that part of it. He did a nice job blocking the linebackers. But he was on all special teams. He was injured actually as a defensive lineman, so we lose that aspect of rotation as well.
"(We will) work around it the best we can. He was used as a special situation defensive line. He wouldn't have been in on first and second down."