EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants never intended to let Odell Beckham, Jr. play for another team. The only question was when they would sign him to a contract extension. And that, team president John Mara said today, was really up to the player.
"We wanted him to come in with the right attitude," Mara said today. "Obviously, wanted to see if he was healthy (after playing in just four games last season because of ankle injuries and surgery). I think he checked both of those boxes."
When he did, the Giants yesterday signed him to a five-year contract extension that begins with the 2019 season.
"There was an intention to sign him at some point," Mara said. "The only question was, was it going to be this year, or were we going to give him another year to prove himself. But as I said, he came in with the right attitude. His energy level has been off the roof. He's done everything we've asked him to do. We feel good about having him on our team for the next five years.
"I think he's matured quite a bit. … I think he's ready to go on and be the type of player and citizen that we expect him to be, and I think he will be."
Since the Giants reported for training camp last month, coach Pat Shurmur repeatedly declined to discuss Beckham's contract negotiations. When reporters asked him today whether it was a relief to have the deal done, Shurmur again defaulted to discussing it in football terms.
"For those of you that have been here all the way through, you've seen that he's practiced hard, he's been training like he was going to play and this was obviously significant," Shurmur said. "But it was an issue of the day yesterday. I've been pleased with what he's done, getting himself ready to play and I'm sure for him, it's a relief to have it done."
But Beckham's high regard for and close relationship with the new coach were certainly a factor in talks. Although Beckham has yet to play a game for Shurmur, the two have developed a close working partnership.
"He and Pat, I think, were on the same page from the beginning," Mara said. "Pat obviously desperately wanted him on the team this year. He said to me back at the beginning of training camp, 'Number 13 is pretty good, you know.' I said, 'Yeah, I think we're all aware of that (laughter).' I think the thing that impressed Pat so much was the attitude and energy level that he came in with. I left it up to Pat and Odell to whether he was going to play in the preseason. It was kind of a mutual thing that he wasn't."
That was largely due to Shurmur's caution regarding the surgery Beckham had after fracturing his left ankle in a game vs, the Chargers on Oct. 8. Beckham has worked hard in practice and will be ready to go for the regular-season opener Sept. 9 vs. Jacksonville.
"There's no doubt in my mind he'll be ready to go against Jacksonville," Shurmur said.
Shurmur made a point of getting to know his star receiver from the time he was named head coach. That effort included getting together early in the spring in Los Angeles, where the coach was scouting draft prospects.
"The relationship we've been able to build has been really amazing for me," Beckham said. "It's been really beneficial. It kind of reminds me of the relationship I had with my high school coach who is somebody I still talk to this day, a guy who taught me to be a man and do these things, so the relationship that we have is very good. I love everything he's done since he's walked in the building and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
"Like any player, I just wanted to get to know him," Shurmur said. "And he certainly is an outstanding player and he's going to help us win games, and so I just wanted to get to know him like I did with the other players. That was it, just normal communication between a coach and a player and you've heard me say it before, we're here as coaches to help the players be the best they can be. Part of that starts by understanding who they are as players.
"I've said it numerous times, but he's super passionate about football. What I've seen in this building and what I've learned early on is he really cares about what he's doing. He trains extremely hard. All the things that you need to do, you want to be great and I think I saw that quickly and really haven't been disappointed in any of that along the way."
Mara said, "He's always going to be a high-energy guy. He's always going to be an emotional guy. I just hope that he keeps those emotions in check. I'm sure there's going to be some incidents where he get excited. Just hopefully he's going to keep it within the grounds of not occurring a penalty, or doing anything else that's going to embarrass him, or ourselves. He's 25, I think he's moving in the right direction. He wants to be here. He's really excited about being a part of this team."
And Shurmur and the Giants are excited to have a full-speed Beckham, ready to make life miserable for opposing defenses.
*Shurmur on linebacker Olivier Vernon, who has a sprained ankle: "Same as yesterday, so we're just working through his ankle."
And on linebacker Connor Barwin, who has missed the previous two games: "Connor did well and he did a little bit more today as well. He's on the right path as well."