EAST RUTHERFORD — He said he didn't remember how he ended up with a grape-sized welt near his right temple, but the embarrassing answer was broadcast to a national TV audience for all to see.
Odell Beckham Jr. swung his helmet in a childish fit at a field-goal net on the Giants sideline after a fourth-quarter Eli Manning interception, and the net unexpectedly swung back with a vengeance, colliding with the receiver's face and neck.
Odell Beckham Jr. was FED UP and the field goal net wasn't trying to hear it... pic.twitter.com/XRoHwdrw9A— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) September 25, 2016
If the Giants defense had hit back as hard as that thing in the fourth quarter, maybe this team is 3-0 today. Seriously. GM Jerry Reese might try to sign that net to play linebacker.
Everyone had a good chuckle at Beckham's expense when the clip of the incident went viral, but what happened in the fourth quarter is not laughing matter for the Giants. Once again, in a big game in MetLife Stadium, their mercurial star could not control his emotions. And that's a problem.
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Giants quarterback Eli Manning had to calm Beckham down on the sideline, and Fox cameras caught a shot of the receiver apparently with tears in his eyes. Was he crying out of frustration? Out of anger? Or was it actual pain from the field-goal-net incident?
"I don't remember," he said.
So what about the welt? How did that happen?
"I don't remember."
Was his memory foggy because he was caught up in the heat of an intense game against an NFC rival?
"I don't remember."OBJ ends warms ups with dazzling catch
On and on it went. Beckham caught seven passes for 121 yards on Sunday, becoming the fastest player to reach 200 catches and 3,000 receiving yards in NFL history. His talent has never been in question.
But the person standing in the way of him becoming the league's best receiver — and that's his stated goal — is not Norman or any cornerback that will lineup against him this season.
That person is Odell Beckham Jr.
That he managed to avoid any serious on-the-field confrontation with Norman after getting flagged for three personal fouls when the two faced each other last year is some progress, at least. That's partly because, according to Beckham, an official issued a stern warning before the game.
"Today, they came up before the game and said, 'If you do anything we're throwing you out of the game.' That was before the game," Beckham said. "There was no, 'You get a warning.' There wasn't any of that. You've just got to be on your best behavior.
"Unfortunately, this is what we've come to. It's not really football any more as much as it is all of the other things that play into it."
Hey, give the ref credit: At least somebody found a way to keep him from losing control. In his last six Giants games, Beckham had those three personal fouls in one, served a one-game suspension in another, was hit with a $36,000 fine for a dirty hit last week and had his sideline meltdown in this one.
Those first run-ins with Norman, who was with the Carolina Panthers then, have shaped Beckham's image as much as his incredible one hand catches. Beckham spent most of the first half in hand-to-hand combat with Norman, running 15 yards after one third-quarter play to slam his helmet into the cornerback's head.
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This is supposed to be the season when Beckham shows maturity, but here we are in Week 3, and he's losing his cool. This is supposed to be when Beckham rises above the nonsense, but he needed a lecture from his quarterback in the fourth quarter of a close game.
"I was trying to figure out what was going on, why he was getting frustrated," Manning said of their sideline conversation. "He was getting catches, he was making plays and we just need everybody to stay calm. We don't need to get rattled, we don't need to get fired up."
Beckham was hardly the only Giants player to lack discipline. Center Weston Richburg was ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and then said the offical was "after me," whatever that means. A stupid personal foul on rookie Andrew Adams negated a beautiful blocked punt that would have set the Giants up in the Washington red zone.
All told, there were 11 penalties for 128 yards and two turnovers for the Giants. "I have to do a better job," head coach Ben McAdoo said after losing for the first time as a head coach, and he's not the only one.
Beckham added his run-in with that net to his personal low-light reel, and on its own, it's harmless. But taken with all the other incidents, it's a problem for this franchise. Beckham, his own worst enemy, needs to finally grow up. Fast.
Steve Politi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StevePoliti. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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