ORLANDO - Dave Gettleman has often repeated a lesson he learned from his former boss, Ernie Accorsi, that "You don't quit on talent."
But on Tuesday afternoon, he sure sounded like a person who was about to do just that.
Gettleman, the new Giants GM, threw more fire on the flames about a possible trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. when he refused multiple opportunities to say anything more than "He's on the team right now." In a bizarre press conference outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel at the NFL owners meetings, Gettleman praised Beckham's work ethic and even dismissed his recent video controversy, but then spoke about eliminating "distractions" from the Giants.
In fact, after a pointed opening statement that he read from hand-written notes, Gettleman added to the distraction when asked simply if he wanted Beckham on his team.
"I'm not going there," he said. "Next question."
Exactly what that means will likely be dissected and debated right up until the start of training camp -- or perhaps until the Giants choose to extinguish the fire that they lit themselves over the last few days. Now, to varying degrees, Gettleman, new head coach Pat Shurmur and co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are all on record refusing to commit to Beckham being part of the team in 2018 -- which seems unnecessary and even irresponsible if they're still hoping he'll be back.
And Mara and Tisch, at least, made it clear they do hope Beckham would be on the team. Shurmur -- who met with Beckham last week in Los Angeles -- even said he expects him at the start of the offseason training program on April 9.
Gettleman, though, sure made it sound he's open for business with Beckham -- especially if he's the "distraction" that Gettleman was talking about.
"One of the most important responsibilities that any GM has is to eliminate internal and external distractions," Gettleman said. "It's my responsibility to create the atmosphere that allows players to play and coaches to coach. That's part of my job. And I really believe that."
From there, he referenced two recent reports: One, from the NFL Network, that Beckham won't step on a football field without a new contact. And another, from the Daily News, that the Rams are trying to acquire Beckham in a trade. Gettleman insisted that "Neither Odell nor his agent have contacted us regarding either report," and he added that "Every decision I make is going to be made in the best interest of the football Giants."
So what does that have to do with Beckham and his future with the Giants? Again, and apparently purposely, Gettleman remained vague. He was reminded that at his opening press conference he said Beckham would have "a clean slate" with him. Asked if that slate had been scuffed up, perhaps by the recent video controversy, Gettleman said "You tell me. Next question."
As for the video itself -- the one with Beckham in bed with a model, a pepperoni pizza, and what looked like drugs -- Gettleman laughed that off, saying "All I saw was the pizza, look at me."
It was a funny line, but hardly added any more clarity to the situation. Neither did his subsequent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio when he praised Beckham as "a kid who hates to lose" -- something Gettleman has said multiple times is a trait he wants in his players. He said he learned that from a 90-minute conversation he had with Beckham just prior to the last game of the regular season.
Gettleman even said new Giants receivers coach Tyke Tolbert "is the perfect wide receiver coach for him" making it again sound like he's a player that will stick around.
But … he kept adding "buts" …
"At the end of the day, one of the things I have to focus on is eliminating distractions, internal and external," Gettleman said again. "That's a big part of the GM's job. It's one of the things Ernie (Accorsi) banged into my head: 'Distractions. Eliminate distractions.' And he's 100 percent right."
So is Beckham a distraction? Gettleman didn't say specifically. He also wasn't completely clear on what he considered a distraction to be. Certainly Beckham has had plenty of those -- and this latest viral video has been a big one inside the Giants organization. A potential contract holdout could be considered a distraction, too.
But while Gettleman said "Distractions are anything," the specific example he gave didn't seem to fit Beckham at all. He talked first about how players "want to know that everyone is working as hard as them." Then he talked about working with people who are a "pain in the neck to deal with" and how that can make people not want to do their job.
Of course, by all accounts, Beckham's teammates have always loved him. And even Gettleman admitted his work ethic is pretty strong.
"Kid works his fanny off," Gettleman said. "His rehab is going terrific. Sends us pictures. He'll send us a video about him running. He is an excellent worker."
And yet, when asked if Beckham was a part of the Giants' plan, Gettleman said "He is. He's on our team."
And he will be? "Hey listen, I don't know if I'm going to drop dead of a heart attack in two seconds," Gettleman said. "I hope not. … He's on the team, what do you want me to tell you?"
How about that he's not available in a trade? "He's on the team right now," Gettleman said.
So he is available? Again, from Gettleman: "I just said he's on the team."
But does Gettleman want him on the team? "Listen," he added. "You don't quit on talent. I told you that."
Whether he will quit on Beckham's talent, though, is an open question that the Giants don't seem to want to close.