EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — With the rehab behind him and the pain gone, three-time New York Giants Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is returning to the NFL with an even bigger target on his back, and an outspoken Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback ready to take a shot at him.
Beckham doesn’t mind. The NFL’s highest paid receiver can’t wait to play in a game for the first time since breaking his left ankle against the Chargers on Oct. 8.
Facing Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a plus. And Beckham insists there isn’t going to be a repeat of his Josh Norman debacle in 2016. The 25-year-old isn’t taking the bait this time.
When Beckham gets on the field on Sunday, it will all be about playing the game he loves again.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” Beckham said Wednesday. “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 has come a long way since the injury, one that put his career in jeopardy more than most people know. It took him months to be able to run, and to watch the videotape of his injury in its entirety. He would watch and turn it off before the hit.
“I didn’t want to see it,” Beckham said. “It reminded me of Joe Prothro at Alabama, that gruesome (leg) injury (2010) that you just don’t want to see again. When it’s you, it’s even harder to watch, because you can feel the pain receptors hit your brain and you can feel it all over again. Just being able to watch that video comfortably and just see.
“I can watch it now any time.”
During training camp, Beckham convinced the Giants he had returned to 100 percent and he was rewarded with a $95 million contract extension that makes him the highest-paid player at his position.
“I don’t think that the contract can do anymore for that target on my back,” Beckham said. “Inflicted by the world, inflicted by myself. That target has been on there since I came in, so I don’t know if a contract is going to help. That target increases and decreases. Guys have always wanted to hit me and be able to talk about it. It’s just the reality of where I’m at in life. It’s just something I’ve had to deal with.”
Going against Ramsey will be a challenge but it probably won’t be as personal as the one with Norman. The Redskins cornerback criticized Beckham before their 2016 game. Beckham drew three personal fouls in the contest and was suspended for a game.
He admits he was suckered in by all the pre-game trash talk.
“Yeah, but you took the cheese,” he said. “So, I can’t be mad at anything that happened. I bit on it, so it’s all good.”
Beckham actually developed a friendship working out with Ramsey in the offseason, and he says it is interesting they will be facing each other. Ramsey caused a stir during the summer by saying Beckham made the Giants go, not Eli Manning.
“He’s got all the intangibles,” Beckham said of Ramsey. “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.”
Beckham has the same ability on the other side of the ball. He has 313 catches for 4,424 yards and 38 touchdowns in 47 games. He is already tied for second among all-time Giants’ receivers with three 1,000-yard seasons. His 38 touchdown catches are the second most since entering NFL in 2014.
NOTES: LB Olivier Vernon didn’t practice for the second straight day. Coach Pat Shurmur says the veteran is making great progress. … Shurmur says all his running backs will get touches Sunday. … The Giants signed LB Nate Stupar and waived free agent Rutgers RB Robert Martin.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)