EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Mike Shula, the Giants' new offensive coordinator, called Odell Beckham, Jr. "a vital part of our offense" and said he's looking forward to coaching him.
In other words, he expects Beckham will be on his team this year.
That actually was one of the strongest endorsements the star receiver has gotten over the last 11 days as speculation swirled that the Giants were considering trading Beckham, their best player. That speculation may not be dead just yet, but Shula is apparently ignoring it.
Instead, he said, he's working on building the Giants offense at least in part around one of the most dangerous weapons in the league.
"As we still work through this with Coach (Pat) Shurmur, (Beckham) is obviously a vital part of our offense," Shula said, in his first press conference since he was hired back in February. "When you have guys that can make plays and put points on the board you want to feature them as much as you can."
Just how much the Shurmur-Shula offense will feature Beckham remains to be seen, but over the last four years Beckham has basically been the Giants' entire attack. Shula could see that when he was the offensive coordinator in Carolina and spoke to players on the Panthers who had played against him in the past.
"God, he's such an explosive player," Shula said. "We've watched what everyone else has seen what he can do on the field. I'm really looking forward to being able to work with a guy like that. Again, what you see on the field, and talking to the guys that have had to defend him in Carolina, just how explosive he is, and getting the ball in the end zone. We're going to try to improve on that."
Shula said he's already met with Beckham, up in the coach's office about three days after he got the job. He may get a chance to finally talk football with him on Monday, if Beckham shows up for the start of the Giants' offseason workout program.
If he doesn't, of course, the Beckham Trading Frenzy will likely be re-ignited, even now that the Rams -- long reported to be Beckham's strongest pursuers - traded for Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks instead. But Shula said he's done his best to ignore the noise around his star player, and that's not likely to change.
"I kind of learned over the years to try to avoid the swirls," Shula said, "and just kind of focus in on the things that I'm responsible for and at the time that I'm responsible for doing that."
And what he's focused on is building an offense around a hopefully healthy Beckham. His goal seems to be that it won't be all-Beckham like it has been in recent years. When defenses focus on Beckham, he wants to make sure he has other options to help his best player out.
"You also have to realize that you have other components," Shula said. "And hopefully some more as we move forward into the offseason and the draft, where we can put players on the field and we're not going to be predictable. And if teams want to try to take Odell away then we've got other answers -- and good answers."