Most of the world sees Odell Beckham Jr. one way. One superhuman catch last season took on a life of its own. After Sunday, however, players in the Buffalo Bills locker room see the New York Giants wide receiver in a much, much different way.
Several in the locker room said Beckham threw multiple punches after the whistle in the New York Giants' 24-10 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, describing the Giants receiver as a "prima donna" and a "golden boy" who gets away with various cheap stunts.
The reason linebacker Preston Brown retaliated after a play late in the fourth quarter was because Beckham punched him. Then, three snaps later, the wideout socked safety Duke Williams with a hard right punch across the helmet after an interception. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, one player who faced Beckham much of the game, described Beckham as a little brother who throws "tantrums" after the whistle.
When Beckham's name is brought up in the locker room Tuesday, the soft-spoken Gilmore shakes his head.
“I don’t know what’s up with him," Gilmore said. "He acts like nobody’s supposed to hit him and you’re supposed to let him catch the ball. He’s weird. He gets mad when you play physical with him. He’s weird.
“He’s different. It’s kind of like you’re playing your little brother and he gets mad at you for being too physical with him — throwing a tantrum. I’m like, ‘Man, we’re playing football. It’s a physical game. ... He’s a prima donna. He feels like he’s on top of the world and nobody’s supposed to do anything to him."
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On Brown's 15-yard unsportsmanlike flag, the linebacker said Beckham was already getting into it with a different player so he came over to play "peacemaker." Beckham threw a quick punch, so he reacted.
“They were doing everything in the book they could to try to get a free 15," Brown said. "They would say anything they thought would rile us up. Words usually don’t do anything, but when they start swinging at you — they did that a lot. They were throwing a lot of cheap shots.”
Not that this was a total surprise to the guys in this locker room.
Players saw on the Giants/Redskins film from the previous week that Beckham does this often after the whistle. Such cheap shots, they say, are a major part of his game.
“That’s what he does. He’ll get away with it," Brown said. "He’s the ‘golden boy’ of the league. He’s on the cover of Madden. Sometimes, you get away with stuff like that.”
And Beckham wasn't done.
Soon after Gilmore's interception of Eli Manning, he punched safety Duke Williams. The safety blocked Beckham to the ground, the two got up on their feet and then Beckham threw the right-handed hook. Unlike Brown, he did not retaliate but the punch wasn't flagged. Williams figured there would be a penalty because, as he said, the punch was thrown "face to face, clear as day" right in front of an official.
“A guy like that," Williams said, "you expect him to be a stand-up guy but I guess it is a part of his game. He likes to throw cheap shots here and there and gets away with it. I guess it’s his thing. ...Right in front of the referee and he threw a jab at me and ran behind his teammates. He ran away. I’m just like, ‘Wow. That’s crazy.’”
In addition to this, he says Beckham talked trash "every play." Neither Brown, nor Williams would repeat what Giants players said on the field, only indicating it must beyond typical trash talk.
To Williams, it's mind-boggling that he was flagged for running out of bounds on a punt without being touched but the official somehow missed this.
“I just put my hands up like, ‘You’re not going to call the foul?'" Williams said. "He didn’t call anything.”
Added Gilmore, "What’s the reason to do that? I think he got mad Duke blocked him and that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Of course, more teams will follow Beckham's lead. The Bills drew 17 penalties on Sunday and are on pace to shatter the NFL record. The Giants apparently agitated Buffalo late in the game, and it worked.
Coach Rex Ryan is stressing to players this week to let these jabs go, as difficult as it may be.
When Brown returned to his locker after the loss, his phone lit up with text messages from friends, who were shocked to see him react like this. They knew this wasn't his style of play, at all. Either way, four games in, the Bills have a league-wide reputation of crossing the line.
“Now that everybody saw us on TV, it looks like we’re going crazy," Brown said. "So now, every team is going to do that. Now, we understand that’s going to happen. So we’ll just sit back, relax and laugh. It’s just a mentality now. We know we can’t do that stuff in the NFL. If somebody throws the punch, we’re going to look at him and laugh. We can’t do anything and they probably won’t get the flag for it either. If we retaliate, we’re going to get the flag.”
Between the whistles, the Bills actually kept the prolific Beckham in check. He had only five receptions for 38 yards on 12 targets.
Gilmore, who studies receivers across the NFL, said Beckham is "alright."
“I don’t really watch TV and listen to the hype. I study guys on the film and then I judge him," the corner said. "He’s not Sammy Watkins. He has good hands, he can catch. He’s good but he’s not what people think after that one catch.”
And while the Giants wideout hauled in the catch of the year (decade? century?) last season against Dallas, the Bills are adamant that there's a different side to this star.
"His world is based on hype and that one catch," Gilmore said. "Everybody sees that, everybody knows him for that and people don’t really look at the film and watch him and really don’t know what type of player he is."