EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman believe they are being picked on.
Not by each other, but by the NFL.
No more infamy was the NFL’s message to Beckham and Norman. Before Sunday’s game between the Giants and Redskins, referee John Hussey and field judge Rick Patterson delivered explicit instructions on how they expected New York’s star receiver and Washington’s All-Pro cornerback to behave.
Beckham didn’t appreciate the special treatment, nor did he think it was necessary. Ditto for Norman.
“They implemented a new rule this year. It’s basically the Odell Beckham Jr. rule,” Beckham said. “I had three personal fouls last year, so they said if you come out and get one personal foul and another one for the same thing (you are ejected). 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.
“There was no, you get a warning. There was not any of that. You just have to be on your best behavior. Unfortunately, that’s what it’s come to. It’s not really football anymore as much as it is all the other things that play into it.”
Norman was just as annoyed by the pregame treatment.
“They pulled me off to the side and said, “We are not going to make a mockery of the game,” Norman said. “I don’t know if that was from the top, or (Hussey) saying that directly to me.
“Wow. What am I doing? I’m just playing a sport that God has blessed us with and being as physical as I can be within the rules and the confines of what they ask us to do. That (mockery) was a big word. I kind of felt bad.
“At the same time, I appreciate the officials. They really did a good job of controlling the game. It didn’t get out of hand.”
Not like it did in December, but it had its moments.
In that previous Beckham-Norman affair, while Norman was establishing himself as a premier coverage guy with Carolina, Beckham committed three personal fouls. There were plenty of nasty words aimed at each other, too, and some excuses for the near-brawling.
Beckham subsequently was suspended for a game, and when Norman signed as a free agent with Washington, it meant two meetings per season for the foes.
Beckham insists any feud is vastly overblown.
“It’s never been an issue,” he said. “It’s been something that’s been made up by all of this, in a sense. All I care about is football, and I’m sure it’s the same for him.
“We’re just two fierce competitors, that’s all it is.”
On that score, Norman agreed.
“We got it in us. We are fighters, fighters to the end,” he said. “Scrapping … real gritty, all the way down to the bone and gristle. Fight, fight, fight.”
This first face-to-face matchup as division rivals saw Beckham make seven receptions for 121 yards. He spiced up his performance with some sideline antics in an intense fourth quarter.
Incensed at one point by the Giants’ inability to score, he swung his helmet at the kicking net. The net didn’t appreciate it and hit Beckham in the head.
He said he didn’t remember doing it.
The biggest news either player made on the field was Beckham’s 200th career catch, the quickest ever (30 games).
Until late in the game, Beckham was a minor factor while handled, mostly in press coverage, by Norman. They did bump on the first snap from scrimmage, a running play on which Beckham wasn’t required to do much as a blocker. It was nondescript contact.
From there, it didn’t get particularly physical for three quarters. No spearing by Beckham while Norman was on the ground. No flailing away with the arms in coverage. Not much trash talk, either.
It couldn’t last.
Norman got a key 15-yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver 11 seconds into the fourth quarter. But it was rookie Sterling Shepard, who Norman left Beckham to challenge on a pass over the middle.
Then Beckham burned a zone for 12 yards before making a brilliant curl away from Norman on a short pass that initially got the Giants inside the Washington 10. But it was negated by a taunting call — not against Beckham, but Giants center Weston Richburg, who was ejected for his second such foul of the game.
Beckham threw everything into New York’s last scoring drive, making three receptions for 34 yards, twice while covered by Norman. He also had a drop, and the Giants settled for Josh Brown’s field goal and a 27-26 lead they couldn’t hold.
His biggest error came on the final drive when Beckham was called for setting an illegal pick on Norman. Two plays later, Washington rookie Su’a Cravens finished off New York with an interception.
“All this stuff in between, that was show,” Norman said, a huge smile creasing his face. “At the end of the day, a ‘W’ is all that matters. I’m gonna be on this high for a while.”