EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When the Giants host the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday on Kickoff Weekend, Odell Beckham, Jr. will play in his first game in 11 months and one day.
"I can't stop thinking about it," Beckham said today. "I'm at home, I'll be in the middle of conversation, my mind doesn't get off this game. It's been a long time. There was a lot of hard work and preparation just to be able to get back to running and playing again. So, I'm excited. I'm real excited about this team and the opportunity we have in front of us."
Beckham, as anyone who pays attention to the NFL knows, fractured his left ankle last Oct. 8 in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He underwent surgery and endured an arduous and challenging rehabilitation. Beckham was a full participant in training camp practices – including the competitive joint workouts with the Detroit Lions – but did not play a down in any of the Giants' four preseason games.
When he lines up for the Giants' initial offensive play against Jacksonville, it will be his first since the final snap he took vs. the Chargers.
"Obviously, I can't wait to be back out there, but I haven't been hit," Beckham said. "I mean, I was getting tackled in the offseason, but not by these guys. Get you that first one, get that hit, it's kind of like you shake it off, and then you keep going from there. You need that first one, but it's not something that I'm so much afraid of. This is football. It's always going to be football, regardless if you haven't taken a hit in years or whatever it is. It doesn't feel good to get hit. It is what it is."
Beckham can't exactly ease back into action. The Jaguars were a quarter from advancing to Super Bowl LII last season when they led the NFL in pass defense (169.9 yards a game) and were second in total defense (286.1). Jacksonville had four defensive starters on the AFC Pro Bowl team, including both cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye (the others were linemen Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell).
Ramsey was also a first-team All-Pro, a designation that validated the opinion of many in the league that he is the NFL's best corner.
"If he's not 1A, he's 1B," Beckham said. "The only person I know like that is (Arizona Cardinals corner) Patrick Peterson. He's what, 6-3, 215, he runs 4.30 (in the 40-yard dash). He's got all the intangibles. He's athletic and he's just good. Like I said, he's just one of the best in the league. He does it all."
"He's a big guy (6-1, 208), physical, so he's got good size and good range, good ball skills," quarterback Eli Manning said. "You know he likes to be pressed up and does a good job just kind of playing tight coverage. So you have to throw it on time and be accurate when you're throwing his way."
Though they will be rivals on Sunday, Beckham and Ramsey are friends.
"Over the offseason, we kind of got together and we were hanging out and doing whatever," Beckham said. "The schedule comes out, and I was joking with him like, 'When we play y'all, what happens if I run this, that, and the other?' And next thing I know, the schedule is out, and we play them the first game (laughter). It's funny how life works, and how God works and everything works. We got them matched up Week 1, and I'm sure it won't be as friendly as it was over the offseason. We're both very, very competitive. I know that for sure. It's going to be a good game."
What is uncertain is whether Ramsey will shadow Beckham the entire game or stay on his traditional left side.
"He's done it (stuck with one receiver) sometimes," Manning said. "He definitely has matched and followed guys and sometimes he hasn't, so I guess you don't know.
"It doesn't change a game plan, doesn't change things up. He's normally on the (offensive) right side. Obviously, if he starts traveling to the other side, it's still not going to change what we're doing."
What they'll do at times is throw to Beckham, who relishes not only the opportunity to play football again, but the challenge presented by Jacksonville's formidable defense.
"They have a very good scheme, probably the defense in the NFL," Beckham said. "We have a very tough challenge ahead of us. I think we're all excited about the opportunity just to be able to come back and play football again. I know that I'm very excited. It's definitely going to be a good match."