EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Odell Beckham has been "cleared to practice," according to Giants coach Pat Shurmur, even though he didn't really do much practicing at minicamp on Tuesday morning. The star receiver sat out of all the team drills, which had nothing to do with his contract situation, Shurmur said.
Except that it does. Of course it does.
Let's not be naïve. Until Beckham signs on the dotted line of what he expects will be, and could be, the most lucrative contract extension for a receiver in NFL history, his contract situation will loom over everything he does -- even if this lasts into next season. If he had already signed a new deal, would he have been on the field for team drills on Tuesday, eight months after ankle surgery?
He certainly looked like he could've done it with no problems at all.
"He looks good," said fellow receiver Sterling Shepard. "I swear I forget that he got hurt sometimes."
Right. The offseason videos of him working out and dancing made that pretty clear.
That said, the Giants and Beckham are not quite at a crisis point just yet. In fact, both sides appear to be doing exactly the right thing. They are moving slowly and cautiously -- both with his health and with what might eventually be a major contract showdown. It's mid-June. Landon Collins, recovering from a broken arm, didn't participate in team drills either despite being a full participant in a wild dodgeball game at his charity event on Saturday night. The Giants don't want to risk the health of either player three months before the start of the season.
Just as importantly, though, they don't want to pour fuel on a contract fire before they have to deal with it in late July.
"I'm not worried about (the contract situation) and neither is he," Shurmur insisted. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: I look at a player that loves football. He's out there right now doing his thing and he wants to be here. And as the coach and the player, that's what we talk about."
And that's good because their relationship does seem healthy. That's why they both can peacefully take advantage of the built-in excuse with Beckham's health to reach a reasonable compromise. Beckham showed up to continue to foster the good will he's built up by being at least an occasional participant in the Giants' offseason program, and he gets to avoid the possibility of more than $84,000 in fines. But he gets to be limited (without the Giants getting upset) so he doesn't risk his health with his contract situation unsettled. The ankle issue provides the cover to temporarily diffuse the whole thing.
Or to put it another way: They are punting on this issue until July 26 when the Giants are due to report to training camp.
Beckham, of course, hasn't said yet what his training camp intentions are. He hasn't spoken publicly since he got hurt last October, and it's unknown if he'll speak during minicamp this week. Even if he doesn't, he is scheduled to speak on Saturday morning at his youth football camp in Metuchen, N.J. There should be a lot of topics to cover that day, including a possible holdout, although no one knows if he'll clear anything up.
Until he does, the Giants are willing to give him some cover because they are generally pleased with how he's handled his business this offseason. Beckham could've avoided the team altogether to make a point about a new deal. That seemed all but certain in late March when the Giants' angered some people in his camp by openly expressing dismay at some of his behavior and flirting with the idea of trading him away.
But Beckham's response to that -- at least in his actions -- has been nothing but positive. He's worked to build a relationship with Shurmur, stayed in regular contract with the team while rehabbing his injury back in Los Angeles, and he even showed up enough at the offseason program to keep the coaches pleased.
"What I'm concerned about is my relationship with him and him learning as much as he can through this offseason, so that when we get going he is ready to go," Shurmur said. "Then my job as the coach, and our job as coaches, is to get him trained up and put him on the field. That's what we worry about.
"This isn't the first time in the NFL we've talked about a player and a contract. We just keep moving, keep developing our relationship within what is going on, and then we move forward and that's where it's at."
And again, that's good. But the good will only goes so far and July 26 is going to come quickly. There is no indication at all that the Giants plan to give Beckham a new contract by the start of training camp. It's not even clear if serious talks will have started by then. So a holdout is definitely in play. There's a chance it could be long and it could be ugly.
But that's for then. The Giants and Beckham are doing their best to make sure nobody worries about it right now.