As the New York Giants await the results of an appeal by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. concerning the one-game suspension handed down Monday following his violent in-game altercations with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, it became a topic of discussion in the Minnesota Vikings locker room.
The Giants will be without Beckham, as the suspension was upheld late Wednesday afternoon, meaning they will have a much different offense than what the team has had all season. It would be akin to the Vikings being without Adrian Peterson – OBJ is that important to making the Giants offense click.
Asked about how the battle between Beckham and Norman could escalate to the level it did – five personal fouls called on the two of them – cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he was stunned when he watched the war that was waged between the two for the entire game last Sunday.
“It’s a crazy situation,” Munnerlyn said. “Guys get caught up in the game and guys get caught up playing physical, playing tough. Those guys were getting after each other all game. I was like, ‘Man, I would have been exhausted.’ There’s no way I could keep that up every single play and those guys, they did.”
Nobody is immune from getting caught up in such situations. The NFL is both physical and emotional and incidents like that do happen.
“I got into one of those things before – a couple of years ago with Stevie Johnson,” Munnerlyn said. “When he was in Buffalo, we were going at each other every single play. It seemed like wherever he went, I went. We were just going after each other. We played within the rules – I didn’t get a flag, he didn’t get a flag. I did get a fine, but we talked after the game and left it there.”
Munnerlyn thought his situation with Johnson was over when they headed to their respective locker rooms after the game. It was only the following Wednesday when he saw a Fed-Ex package in his locker that he realized how dim a view the league has on those situations, as he was hit with a pretty significant fine.
“It was like $7,900,” Munnerlyn said. “I remember thinking, ‘I never should have hit him like that on that play.’ I would have kept $7,900 in my pocketbook.”
Running back Adrian Peterson said Wednesday that he reached out via text to Beckham to tell him that this can be a learning experience. As a player whose M.O. is to play with an aggressive, violent style, Peterson said he could see where both players were coming from.
The emotions of the game, especially when it is a one-on-one battle, can at times get heated and out of hand. While some of the hits were beyond the scope of the game, especially the intentional helmet-to-helmet shot delivered by Beckham, Peterson said that wasn’t indicative of either player and, in his view, shouldn’t result in a suspension.
“It was unfortunate on both sides,” Peterson said. “I like both of those guys. They’re great football players in my eyes. It got physical out there. To me, the way I play, I like that. Both of them kind of got out of hand on one play each. My personal opinion, I don’t think it warrants a suspension. That’s my one opinion.”
Beckham had a hearing Wednesday morning and a decision to uphold the suspension was rendered by the league within six hours.
“Acts that jeopardize the safety of players or expose them to unnecessary risk cannot be tolerated,” Merton Hanks, NFL vice president of operations, wrote in his letter to Beckham on Monday.
The Vikings have installed a game plan for the Giants and, while it could be tweaked based on whether or not Beckham plays, defensive end Brian Robison said he doesn’t expect the Giants to drastically change their game plan.
“I think they’ll do the same stuff they’ve been doing on tape,” Robison said. “You’re not going to gear your whole game plan around one guy. They’re going to come in here and try to win a ballgame and we’re going to try to do the same.”
Munnerlyn said he hoped the suspension would be overturned, despite the fact that it would have made the Giants a much more difficult opponent with OBJ in the lineup.
Like everyone else, Munnerlyn was waiting to hear the final word, but, as a competitor, he wanted to see the Giants at full strength to test the Vikings defense against one of the elite players in the NFL.
“It’s not my call,” Munnerlyn said before Wednesday’s ruling. “I want him to play because I want to play against the best. He’s one of the best in the league, so I definitely want to go out and compete against him, so I definitely want him to play. If they make the ruling that he doesn’t play, you’ve got to abide by the rules. You can’t have unnecessary penalties like those guys did.”
The decision was expedited, but the Vikings had to prepare on Wednesday for the Giants – with or without Beckham. Head coach Mike Zimmer said before the ruling that the Vikings were approaching the game plan as though Beckham would be on the field and doing what he does about as well as anyone – making life miserable for defensive backs.
“We prepare as if he will be playing,” Zimmer said “If he doesn’t, then we will adjust and adapt. Honestly, it’s similar to when you get an injury report and a guy is listed as questionable and then he can’t go on Sunday or something happens during the game and a guy goes out. You always a lot of different scenarios that you work. Usually we practice that he’s going to play.”
Now that won’t be necessary. The league has spoken and Beckham won’t be reinstated until Monday.