EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Odell Beckham, Jr. has been a phenomenon since his first NFL game in 2014 when he scored a fourth quarter, game-winning touchdown in the Giants' victory against the Atlanta Falcons. In his first three seasons, OBJ rewrote both the franchise and the NFL record books by averaging 96 receptions, 1,374 yards and almost 12 touchdowns a season.
Now he believes he and his offensive teammates can post even better numbers in the attack coach Pat Shurmur has brought to the Giants.
"This offense allows me to move around, it allows me to be inside, outside," Beckham said today. "I'm running more routes. It's more creative. This offense allows us to all be interchangeable. Evan (Engram) can be on the outside, Saquon (Barkley) can be on the outside, Shep (Sterling Shepard) can be on the outside, Cody (Latimer) can be on the inside. It's all interchangeable.
"I like being able to move around, I like being able to get inside. It's a lot harder to guard somebody inside than it is outside. On the outside, you can still do your thing. It really just gives you more freedom."
Beckham today spoke to the media for the first time since a brief interview with two reporters the night before Super Bowl LII in February, and held his first news conference since before he suffered his season-ending fractured ankle last Oct. 8. He was relaxed and engaging and admittedly delighted to be back playing the game he loves.
"It's honestly just great to be back out there," Beckham said. "As I've been running routes, running around, I remember nights falling asleep downstairs, and literally having to crawl up three flights of stairs to get to my room. So to be able to walk again and be able to do the little things, you're very appreciative of being able to be back out there, and it's great to be back out there with some of those guys – Sterling, it's always good to see him, Saquon, everybody. It's going to be a good team."
That in itself is a reasonably bold prediction for a team that finished 3-13 last year. But the Giants overhauled their front office, coaching staff and roster, and Beckham believes the elements are in place for a rapid and significant turnaround.
"I think it's everything starting from coach (Shurmur), starting with what he's done since we've been here. Bringing all these guys together, now I'm looking at the defense and they're moving around and they're causing problems for us, and I watch the O-line hang out with each other all day, every day. None of them go out to practice without each other. It's truly incredible what they have been doing and the improvements and everything, the camaraderie that they have. I just think we have a special group. We got a nice little running back – he's alright, Saquon. But just looking to have fun this year and coach has made it to where you can move around a lot and you can get in the slot, you can get outside, everybody has to know every position. It's just been a lot of fun."
Beckham had two injuries to his left ankle last year. He sprained it in a preseason game at Cleveland on Aug. 21 (which forced him to miss the regular-season opener in Dallas) and broke it when he landed awkwardly late in a loss to the Chargers in MetLife Stadium.
Beckham was carted off the field in tremendous pain, but when he's out there now the ankle doesn't invade this thought process (usually).
"I don't really feel it, I don't think about it much – well, I try not to," he said. "It's still always there, but I'm getting back as close to 100 (percent) as I can for right now, so it's been a long process.
"I had been feeling it as I was working out, and it's kind of like over the last month I've taken a huge stride. I remember maybe two months ago, it wasn't as smooth and I wasn't getting out of cuts, and you kind of get that frustration and just you want to get back to where you're at. But now that I'm here, like I said, it's been a lot of hard work put in, lot of doctors, lot of treatment, lot of rehab, lot of pain you went through. It's nice to be here now."
Beckham said his improved frame of mind is no accident.
"I literally watched my world feel like it turned upside down," he said. "I watched relationships close to me devour and things go wrong and things go sideways, and it was a lot of pain I went through the last 10 months. So just kind of taking it day-by-day and trying my best to just make my mindset every day I wake up, I'm going to be happy, I'm going to do this right, I'm going to do the very best that I can in whatever it is, whatever it is that I was doing. Just changed the mindset, and it's helped me out a lot with everything. It's helped me out a lot."
The lingering issue with Beckham remains his hoped-for contract extension, an issue team president John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman have been asked about several times, including this week. If Beckham is stressed about it, he hid it well today.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "I'm confident it'll all work itself out. Life always does."
Unlike some NFL players, Beckham reported to camp on time, has participated in every practice, and never discussed the issue publicly unless asked by the media.
"After I see my ankle snap and it feels like your world turns upside down, life's just different," he said. "I'm just happy. Honestly, for real, I'm just happy to be back out there running around. And like I said before, I don't believe in any of that stuff. I feel like they'll get it done when they get it done, let my agent and them figure it out. I just come out here, try and get all the plays down, focus on being the best that I can be. So, it'll happen when it happens."
Beckham's personal goals are centered on the field, not off of it.
"Probably the same as every year," he said of his objectives for the season. "Be the best that I can be, hang one of these (championship) banners up."