EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman avoided any fighting words just days before resuming their football feud.
Whether the Giants receiver and the Redskins cornerback can play nice on the field Sunday when Washington comes to MetLife Stadium for an NFC East rivalry game remains to be seen.
Both were relatively low-key in discussing their upcoming first meeting since last December , when the two acted like kids trying to be the toughest guy on the block. That was in a game between the Giants and Carolina Panthers, Norman’s team until he signed with Washington as a free agent in the offseason.
The game was an ugly lowlight reel. The two pushed, shoved, took swings, wrestled, had a couple late hits and did a lot of trash talking. The most flagrant action came in the third quarter when Beckham delivered a diving helmet-to-helmet hit on All-Pro Norman while blocking.
Beckham drew three personal fouls and was suspended one game by the NFL for “multiple violations of safety-related playing rules.”
The Giants’ biggest receiving threat, Beckham was on his best behavior Wednesday while discussing any potential problem with Norman.
“Since then, I really have learned a lot,” said Beckham, who was forced to sit out a game against Minnesota. “You just have to take it. All you can do is learn from it. You can’t go back. If I could, I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing that happened. That’s how life happens. Things happened for a reason and everything happens for a reason.”
The 23-year-old 2014 first-round pick says the most important thing is helping the Giants (2-0) win, a result which would leave the Redskins three games behind New York.
Norman says he is still working on forgiving Beckham for the helmet-to-helmet hit.
“That was last year,” he said. “I think things that happen in the past stay in the past, whether they are here or not.”
An ESPN report out of Washington said Norman had been assigned to play Beckham one on one every play except those in which the receiver lined up in the slot. Norman said he didn’t get that memo, but he would not mind if that was the case.
“Heck yeah, why not?” Norman said. “Shoot man, that’s the competitor that’s inside of me, man. I don’t shy away from nobody. Oh my gosh. When you go on Sunday (it) reeks and oozes with confidence. I don’t bow down to nobody or their thoughts of me. I try to make my own. And when I do, I impose my own will. So I try to do that each and every time I step on the football field.”
Beckham leads the Giants with eight catches for 159 yards, a 13.3-yard average.
“He’s really a good player,” Norman said. “No hate whatsoever, man. The guy can play ball. I think the competitor in me likes that. Just challenged to get up for that.”
Giants coach Ben McAdoo doesn’t expect an encore from Beckham and Norman.
“I think they put on a great show,” the rookie head coach said. “You have two outstanding competitors at the top of their game. Two premier players in this league. I think they put on a great show for everyone.”
Beckham said his play will be dictated by the Giants’ game plan. He will line up where they tell him and run the patterns they want. He expects the Redskins secondary will try to annoy him.
“It’s part of their game plan,” the third-year receiver said. “I would do the same. It’s mental warfare. It’s the art of war. There’s different ways to attack it.”
If Norman shadows Beckham, that could open up things for Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard, who have eight and 11 catches, respectively. Looking back on last season, Beckham did not do badly against Norman, finishing with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. He also dropped a sure TD pass early in the game.
While he may not be saying anything to provoke Norman, Beckham insists his game won’t change.
“Have you ever watched Russell Westbrook play basketball?” Beckham said. “He plays with a lot of emotion or passion, whatever you want to call it. It’s what’s best for some players and what’s not best for some players. You use it and just be smart. Play smart. It’s football at the end of the day.”
Ian Quillen in Ashburn, Virginia contributed to this report.