Odell Beckham Jr. was suspended for one game Monday after going bonkers and attacking Josh Norman on Sunday, but nothing is ever that simple in the NFL. The Giants wide receiver already had filed an appeal and later this week will have his day in professional football’s Kangaroo Court.
Too often in situations like this one, the offending player is slapped with a stiff sentence that shows the governing body is tough on crime. Attention typically is turned elsewhere, the punishment is reduced, and the final outcome generally is accepted under the assumption justice has been served.
In a perfect world, appeals would come with a risk. Just once, punks like Beckham should be forced to gamble with their sentences the way they gamble with other players’ careers. Let’s roll the dice while the Beckhams in sports confront the possibility that the final punishment could be infinitely longer than the initial one.
Beckham was suspended for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman, but let’s not trivialize what happened. It wasn’t like he was irresponsible with the position of his head on some bang-bang play. He circled back to the action and hunted down Norman before carrying out a premeditated assault with a deadly weapon.
Proving nobody can bend the truth like Beckham, the receiver insisted after the game it was in the spirit of competition. Really, the blindside hit was in the spirit of knocking Norman into 2016.
Fortunately, Norman came away from the attack visibly shaken but physically unscathed. At least that’s what we know for now. As we have learned from scientists who uncovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players, the long-term effects from Beckham’s act of rage could be considerably worse someday.
Now more than any time in history, the NFL wants people to believe it’s tackling football-related head injuries. The movie “Concussion” is set for release on Christmas and will shine more negative light on the league. The NFL in recent years has been under siege for mishandling numerous cases involving violence on and off the field.
What happens with Beckham could depend on whether James Thrash or Derrick Brooks, hearing officers appointed by the NFL and its players’ union, handles the appeal. Thrash was a former receiver with a different mentality than Brooks, a hard-hitting linebacker during his playing days.
History tells us to expect the opposite, but it would be appropriate if the league delivered a stern message and banished Beckham until next season. That would be just punishment for immature, self-absorbed, loose cannons like Beckham who somehow rationalized the league would be lesser without them.
Beckham is a multimillion-dollar talent and entertaining player, no doubt, but he’s intent on joining the ranks of nickel-brained narcissists that have stained the sports world. He knew exactly what he was doing. He’s been on enough highlights to know cameras would catch his act of depraved indifference for the cornerback who had tormented him all game.
For him to attack Norman, himself no saint, wasn’t just dirty football. It was pure stupidity. It was vicious. It was arrogance. It was cowardice. And his attempt to settle a personal score was completely unacceptable.
Beckham should have been ejected by the officials on the field. Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who comes off like a man with old-school values, should have benched him for the rest of the game. At minimum, Beckham should have been parked on the sideline until he regained his composure.
Coughlin initially said he left Beckham in the game because he was trying to win. In other words, he enabled his troubled star. If his defense hadn’t allowed the tying or winning points in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime in five losses, and now six, if Coughlin’s job wasn’t already in jeopardy, he would have been more inclined to do the right thing.
Sure enough, it was Beckham who caught a tying touchdown late in the game, Beckham who stepped over Norman to humiliate him, Beckham who continued his look-at-me charade on the bench. And, just as they did after Beckham took a critical penalty for kicking a ball in disgust against the Jets, it was the Giants who lost the game.
Coughlin later said he wanted Beckham to learn how to deal with certain situations on the field. For a moment, it led me to believe he kept Beckham on the field to face whatever repercussions Carolina deemed necessary. In another era, his teammates would have policed him if the opposition didn’t beat them to the punch. Instead, he’s become a headache.
And that leads me to another point.
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley has been ripped royally for trading two first-round picks for Sammy Watkins in 2014 when they could have kept the pick and selected Beckham. In fact, the statistics show that Beckham has been, by far, the more productive receiver over their first two seasons.
Beckham has 182 catches for 2,701 yards and 25 touchdowns in 26 games. He has caught 34 passes for 20 yards or longer and has 14 catches for 40 yards or longer. Watkins has 109 catches for 1,809 and 15 TDs in 27 games. He has 29 catches of 20 yards or longer and 11 grabs for 40 yards or longer.
This is not an attempt to justify the move for Watkins, but let’s not forget that Beckham has had the fortune of playing with Eli Manning. Watkins had EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton and Tyrod Taylor playing quarterback for the Bills. Watkins likely would have put up Beckham-like numbers if the situation were reversed.
Talk about a great injustice.
In the past week, Beckham has stood up and demanded that people look at him for all the wrong reasons. Watkins stood up in the Bills’ locker room Sunday with good intentions and drawing attention for the right reasons. I’ll let the Court of Public Opinion determine which player people would rather have on their team.