EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There are 2 ½ weeks until the regular season opens and Odell Beckham Jr. still doesn't have his lucrative new contract. That means it's possible the Giants will soon be playing games that count with this unresolved matter hanging over their heads.
And that's a big deal, isn't it? It has the potential to be a season-crushing distraction for the Giants, right?
"No. I don't see it being a distraction at all," said Giants receiver Sterling Shepard. "I don't think half the guys even know anything's going on or anything's been said about it."
"As long as I've been here guys have never made things like that a distraction in our locker room," added veteran linebacker Mark Herzlich. "I've never gone into any meeting, practice or anything thinking 'Oh, this guy's contract is on the line.'"
That is the untold secret about high-profile contract negotiations. They may seem like they could be potentially catastrophic to media and fans outside NFL locker rooms, but they're often unnoticeable to those on the inside. Maybe Beckham will get his new deal by the time the Giants open their season on Sept. 9, and maybe he won't. But it's not like his teammates are counting down the days, texting him for updates, and obsessing over it every night.
If Beckham doesn't make a big deal out of it -- and there is no sign yet that he has or that he will -- his teammates sure aren't going to let it bother them.
Or to put it another way…
"What's personal is personal, and what's professional we keep professional," said veteran running back Jonathan Stewart. "Just stay in your lane, control what you can control, and just worry about your own grilled cheese."
For the most part, NFL players are terrific about worrying about their own "grilled cheese" and not obsessing about the contracts of others. What they care about for the most part when it comes to Beckham is only that he's here, he's working hard, and he's been a good teammate. The important thing to them is that Beckham can help them win.
Sure, he could actually turn his contract situation into a distraction. He could decide that if he doesn't have a deal by Sept. 9, he won't play. That would crush the Giants and their chances for a winning season. It would leave his teammates behind to answer all sorts of uncomfortable questions. It, potentially, could be very, very bad.
But while so many in the world outside the locker room are obsessing over the possibility, Beckham has given nobody any reason to believe he'd cause trouble for his team. He hasn't criticized the Giants for what some see as the slow pace in talks. He didn't skip the offseason program or hold out from mini-camp. He's even been a full participant in training camp. Outside of playing in preseason games -- something the Giants don't even seem to want him to do -- he's done everything anyone would ask of a player preparing for the regular season.
And that's all his teammates see. They don't look beyond that or worry about impending doom. Honestly, they don't seem to think much about anyone's contract situation at all.
"Guys know what's going on usually, but I don't think it's to the extent that everybody thinks," Herzlich said. "Honestly, during preseason I know almost nothing that's going on. I know my baby's sleep schedule, I know what's happening in the meeting rooms. Other than that, I have no idea."
"We don't talk about anything like that," Stewart added. "At the end of the day the distractions are outside of football. Everything that everyone talks about is what everyone else is talking about. We're talking about games, we're talking about our jobs. We come to work and we work."
That's not to say they can't be distracted by outside forces (or that they can't lie about it). The 2008 Giants all swore that Plaxico Burress shooting himself wasn't a distraction, even as they stumbled from their 11-1 start to a 1-3 finish and a first-round playoff loss.
Months later, most of them admitted that the crush of news media, the constant questions even from family and friends, and the general stress and uncertainty was just too much for most of them to handle.
But that's a heck of a lot different than worrying about how much richer a rich teammate is about to get and when.
That's why, as Shepard said, "I don't think you have to worry about that being a distraction at all." Unless Beckham decides to get angry or just refuses to play -- and there's no indication he plans to do either -- his contract situation isn't likely to be a big deal at all for his teammates, whether it's done by Sept. 9 or not.
"I think if you have a disciplined team, not much will distract you," Shepard said. "If you have a team that has a goal in mind, it's kind of hard to knock them off their focus with whatever happens off the field."
"Guys are professionals," Herzlich added. "I don't think they let that distract them too much."