EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. may need to choose his words more carefully.
The NFL’s highest-paid receiver created a stir Friday when ESPN released an interview from this week in which the 25-year-old wondered why the team isn’t throwing the ball farther downfield and playing with more energy.
The possible cause of his frustration? Four games into the season, Beckham hasn’t caught a touchdown pass. Beckham said the Giants (1-3), who travel to Carolina (2-1) on Sunday, need to get on a run.
Here’s how he answered the ESPN question about “the biggest heart of the issue” for the Giants.
“How come we can’t throw the ball for more than 20 yards? How come we don’t attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards?” Beckham said. “Those are questions that we have to figure out, but for now I would say it’s our heart, it’s our energy. It’s what we bring when we line up before the game, all of that. It counts.”
The Giants have completed only two passes of more than 30 yards or more this season, and they have only nine passes of 20 yards or greater.
Beckham was not in the locker room after practice on Friday to discuss his comments. The catalyst of the Giants’ offense has been on his best behavior this season and more mature after missing most of last season with a broken ankle.
While he didn’t throw anyone under the bus, his words indicated he’s upset about losing games.
Quarterback Eli Manning brushed off reporters who approached him for comment. A team spokesman said the 37-year-old, two-time Super Bowl winner who has been under scrutiny had a television interview. He never returned to the locker room.
Coach Pat Shurmur said he was aware of Beckham’s comments made during a sit down with ESPN reporter Josina Anderson. The coach said he hadn’t seen them. He refused to look at them when a reporter offered to let him read them.
“I do know we’re making an effort to do what it takes to score points. I think, if you remember our first drive, the ball didn’t travel down the field, but our team did,” Shurmur said referring to the Giants opening touchdown drive against the New Orleans Saints. “That’s the most important piece and we will continue to try and throw the ball down the field and get the ball down the field and complete it to our playmakers however we need to do it.”
When pressed about the comments, Shurmur said Beckham should be the one address them. The coach added execution was the problem for the offense, not energy.
Beckham, who signed a five-year, $95 million contract extension in training camp, is having a good season coming off his injury. He leads the team with 31 catches for 331 yards, a 10.7-yard average. But he has not caught a touchdown.
Shurmur said he talked to Beckham on Friday but wouldn’t divulge the topics.
Fellow receiver Sterling Shepard initially refused to comment on what Beckham said. He later said the players have had a good energy level in practice and need to execute.
He felt Beckham might be referring to energy level before the start of games. He said players all approach it differently. Some are quiet while others get amped up.
“Some guys want to sit in the locker and look over plays,” Shepard said. “Some guys want to get rowdy and that’s what kind of personality he has. That’s what he likes to see.”
Veteran cornerback Michael Thomas wasn’t worried Beckham’s comment would be taken the wrong way.
“He’s passionate, but we can’t let our emotions get the best of us,” Thomas said. “He wants to win and do his job, and everybody has to. Everybody has to go out and execute and do their jobs. I don’t look at it as distracting or anything like that. That’s who he is. He is passionate. He wants to be great and make plays. We all do.”
NOTES: Linebacker Olivier Vernon was close to getting on the field this week, but he’ll miss his fifth straight game with a high ankle sprain. Tight end Evan Engram (knee) will miss his second straight game. … Starting CB Eli Apple practiced the past two days and is listed as probable. He missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
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