By Ernie Palladino
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Coaches just hate when high-drafted rookies get hurt during training camp. They hate it even more when said rookie was slated to take part in a sparkly, new passing offense.
Imagine, then, Tom Coughlin’s frustration with first-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. It was learned Tuesday that Beckham will miss another week, including Saturday’s Hall of Fame game against Buffalo, as he rests the right hamstring strain that has already cost him seven practices. The situation reached a point where Beckham sat down Tuesday with Coughlin and explained himself.
“We had that talk today,” Beckham said. “We don’t know each other that well. Over time, you get to know people. The bad part about it is your first impression is the one that lasts forever. You don’t ever want to leave a bad impression.
“I’m just trying to reassure him, that he knows how hard it is for me not to be practicing. I’m a high-energy guy. For me, it’s never really been about days off. It’s about getting better.”
In Beckham’s favor is that Coughlin has had a short memory in the past in regard to personal or injury conflicts. His early battles with Michael Strahan over practice procedures and his voluminous set of rules eventually gave way to mutual understanding and, now, deep friendship as Strahan prepares to enter the Hall of Fame.
The coach has become impatient with nagging injuries in the past, too, but quickly forgives if the player returns to his productive self. Prince Amukamara experienced that once he came back from his broken foot as a rookie.
The key, Amukamara said, is for Beckham to do all the other things a rookie does outside the practice field — perfectly.
“If you’re hurt, you need to do everything right,” the starting cornerback said. “When you’re hurt, coach and other people are already looking at you out of the side of their eye. Just be on time for everything, because you just don’t want to add another demerit.”
Regardless of Coughlin’s obsession with punctuality for meetings and practices, there is probably little Beckham can do to appease his coach. The offensive issues of this camp reach far beyond a mere hamstring strain. When Beckham got his cleats caught up with those of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the first day of work, he took himself out of preparations for Ben McAdoo’s new West Coast offense. With everyone, including Coughlin, trying to learn the new system from terminology down to execution, with higher expectations attached to Eli Manning’s completion percentage, and with the absolute need to escape the inconsistent scoring trends of the last two non-playoff seasons, the last thing Coughlin needs is a nagging injury to a No. 1 draft pick.
“It’s frustrating on both ends,” Beckham said. “He wants me out there as bad as I want to be out there. You work so hard to get to where you’re at now, and then you can’t do it, it’s hard to take that all the time and then have your coach at the same time be frustrated.”
Beckham said he suffered hamstring strains at LSU, so this wasn’t his first. He said Tuesday it probably won’t be his last.
It could well be his most inopportune, however. Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan remain Manning’s three main options at wide receiver. Trindon Holliday is more of a returner. Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, Julian Talley, Preston Parker and Travis Harvey are all young and probably won’t be around by the time the Giants kick off the regular season Sept. 8, prime time, in Detroit.
Mario Manningham? There’s a lot of tread on those 28-year-old tires. The hero of Super Bowl XLVI is 50-50, maybe less, to make the final roster.
The longer Beckham is relegated to taking mental reps on the sideline, the higher Coughlin’s mercury will rise. The coach’s offense has a full plate this year, and already a big piece of it has wandered beyond his control.
Beckham can’t get back soon enough.
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