EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. is very aware that quarterbacks get the biggest bucks in the NFL. And that NBA players, even those who sit on the bench nearly all the time, have fully guaranteed contracts.
He also firmly covets being pro football’s highest-paid player, as he proclaimed in a recent online video .
That doesn’t mean the star receiver isn’t going to show up when it’s mandatory, and try his hardest in practices and games.
“I am not here to hold out,” he said Friday at the Giants’ first workout of training camp. “I am here to practice. I am here to get better each and every day. I feel I have stuff I can improve on, stuff I need to work on, and really, stuff I am willing to work on.
“I am 24 years old. I’m trying to play football until I can’t play football any more. I can’t get caught up taking days off and not playing.”
Heading into the fourth season of his rookie contact, he will earn just under $1.84 million, not even close to the $17 million yearly average pulled in by Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He is due for a major raise and likely will get one in the next year.
“He deserves to get paid,” Giants owner John Mara said. “We’re going to pay him. It’s just a question of when we enter into the contract. I don’t have a timetable on it right now. I just don’t feel like there is any need to rush into it. But he is going to end up getting paid.”
Still, dropping a video that went viral days before the Giants began camp created headlines. Beckham recognizes the distraction for the team he can create by any public stances about the money he makes.
He doesn’t seem worried.
“I don’t regret anything ever in life,” he said. “One quote I always read was: ‘Never regret anything because at one point in time that was exactly what you wanted.’ Never any regrets for me.
“I think everyone in the locker room knows, I don’t think there is any missing information between me and the team, we all know what is going on. If I talk, it’s a distraction. If I don’t talk, it’s a distraction. What am I supposed to do?
“So I am going to speak my mind, I am going to answer pretty much whatever you have to ask and that’s just it. Everyone in that locker room knows what is going on, they know why I am here. It is nothing but love. I have nothing but love for them. I have their back and it’s the same way around. There is nothing that can get between me and my team.”
Perhaps. But Beckham was told by management in his exit interview last January after a playoff loss to Green Bay that he needed to grow up. He’s been suspended for a game for on-field actions in a feud with cornerback Josh Norman that bordered on vicious. He’s often appeared more concerned with his numbers than the team’s.
But he’s also a game breaker, the kind of player who makes the spectacular seem routine. His one-handed catch against Dallas in 2014 remains one of the NFL’s most-viewed highlights. It’s one of many Beckham has contributed on an offense in which he at times has been the only threat.
A player of Beckham’s production in the NBA would have a much bigger bank account. A scrub in pro basketball also might. That rankles the receiver.
“What you want to do is change the game,” he claimed. “This isn’t for me, Odell Beckham. It’s for everyone in the league, people who deserve it.
“You sit there and you watch the NBA and it’s crazy. Being realistic, it’s crazy what they are getting (paid), and there are people in the NFL who deserve that. I want to be in the forefront for it and help push the league and the game that way because I feel like the players deserve it, and I feel like we go through a lot. We go through a lot mentally, physically and emotionally, and they just deserve it. The players in the league work hard for it. It’s not for me.”
As for the top salary in the NFL going to anyone but the guys who throw passes, well, Mara is skeptical that such a person exists.
“I can’t think of one,” he said. “The quarterback is all we have had be the highest-paid player.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.