By Ernie Palladino
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If Odell Beckham, Jr. really needs a professor to show him how to conduct himself on and off an NFL gridiron, the Giants should put him in daily contact with Jason Pierre-Paul.
Set him up in JPP’s hospital room while he recovers from recent sports hernia surgery. Throw him into a shared apartment with the defensive end while JPP sits out the rest of the season, which he’ll no doubt spend rehabbing and getting ready to hit either the playoffs — if the Giants make it to the NFC Championship game — or next season with a full head of steam.
Perhaps then and only then will the supernaturally-gifted wide receiver know the true meaning of team.
JPP will be the first one to tell him that being a good teammate has nothing to do with baiting officials with on-field arguments or off-field rants like Wednesday’s. Invoking Stevie Wonder’s name to punctuate his dislike of certain calls is no way to win friends among the refereeing crowd.
Nor does it have to do with smiles and hand claps toward opponents like Antonio Brown or, this week, Dez Bryant, as they try to beat your defense’s brains in.
Perhaps now that JPP has all this time on his hands, the Giants can use him as a true mentor and settling influence for Beckham, since the combined efforts of Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo appear to have laid a couple of big, fat eggs. So far, their criticisms of Beckham’s various behaviors have served only as bridges to his next distraction.
Considering McAdoo not only refused to criticize Beckham on Wednesday, but seemed to side with him in his plan to send plenty of disputed clips for league review, the coach may have given up on trying to reach his errant pass catcher.
That’s why Pierre-Paul could come in handy.
He was never about himself, even after fireworks blew off part of his right hand on July 4, 2015. From the time he woke up in the hospital following that first patchwork surgery, he thought about nothing but getting back to help his team.
Incredibly, he did exactly that for the final eight games. And this season, following another surgery to improve the grip between the remnants of the right thumb and index finger, he came in and performed to a level that should make him a lock for Comeback Player of the Year.
It should matter little to the voters that he’ll miss the last quarter of the season. JPP has done more than enough to warrant such an honor.
How he did it only increases his deservedness.
Even as he fought through the double-teams and unflagged holds that held him to just 1 ½ sacks in the season’s first eight games, his penetration still created pressure. And once he did get hot, with 2 ½ sacks against Chicago and three the next week against Cleveland, his efforts also helped rejuvenate Olivier Vernon’s pass rush and the turnover potential of Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins.
All the while, one never heard him complain about the officials. And if he ever felt the least affection for any enemy defensive lineman honing in on his quarterback, he knew enough to keep those opinions to himself.
A current atmosphere where players share agents and training routines fosters real friendships between opponents. That’s all fine and good. It even adds a civilized note to a game that often borders on the barbaric.
But there are lines not to be crossed.
JPP has always understood that.
Beckham has not.
Perhaps JPP is just the guy to teach him, since his coach and offensive leader haven’t reached him.
And if JPP can’t do what McAdoo and Manning couldn’t with words, at least he can use his big, intact left hand to bop some sense into him.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino