VATICAN CITY — The volatile nature of Odell Beckham Jr . was on John Mara’s mind at a Vatican conference on faith and sport.
The New York Giants president, CEO and co-owner, appearing at the conference on Thursday, discussed the receiver’s latest outbursts on the sidelines.
“He’s a young man who is very emotional but he’s basically a very good young man who does a lot of good things off the field. But he plays the game with a lot of passion and sometimes he goes a little too far,” Mara told The Associated Press.
“But that’s true with a lot of players,” Mara added. “Unfortunately for him it seems like everybody’s focused on him right now.”
Beckham’s antics were on full display in New York’s 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
While Beckham is one of the NFL’s most talented receivers, he’s been making more headlines lately for tantrums, outbursts and penalty flags.
After practice on Thursday, Beckham said he wants to act better on the field and be an inspiration for children, rather than setting a bad example.
“I think I just have to control what I can control,” the 23-year-old receiver said. “I can control myself. I can’t control anything else but what I do. I definitely know I can do a better job at that.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan seemed upset that some cornerbacks are be baiting Beckham, trying to either get him to commit an unsportsmanlike penalty or to take him out of his game.
“If that’s the approach, obviously the guy’s not courageous enough or brave enough or man enough to go ahead and play it straight up,” said Sullivan a West Point graduate. “If they need those types of tricks, then OK, so be it. We’re going to rise above that.”
Beckham didn’t seem to mind the baiting, saying he probably would use that ploy, too.
Looking back on the Vikings game, Beckham said he needs to be aware that opponents will employ ways to steer him off course.
“Sometimes you need to refocus,” Beckham said. “Sometimes you need things to happen that will bring you back. It’s always the tough times that make the great ones that much better.”
Mara is headlining a panel Friday on “big sports, big business.” He’s already been involved in discussions on sports values and maintaining respect on the playing field — issues he plans to bring back to New York and to the Giants.
“You’re always going to have incidents on the field because it’s an emotional game and people play with a lot of passion, and I think we have an obligation to try to minimize that as much as possible and try to talk to people to get them to understand that there’s a certain way which you should act on the field,” said the 61-year-old Mara, whose grandfather, Tim, founded the Giants in 1925.
“We were talking about respect and treating your opponents with respect, and you don’t always see that in professional sports,” Mara added. “So that is one of the messages of this conference.”
On the subject of faith, Mara mentioned how Giants players kneel together in prayer inside the locker room after each game.
“Nobody is forced to do it and it’s been done for years and years and I’m not even sure how it got started, but it’s just something that they do naturally,” he said.
“Of course a lot of times before that or just after that there’s all sorts of language used depending on the outcome of the game, which maybe doesn’t quite fit. But there is always that moment where they do kneel and say a prayer and I think that’s a good thing.”
Mara also said he is working on bringing another Super Bowl to MetLife Stadium after a successful 2014 edition, which marked the first time the game was played in the New York City area and the first time a cold-weather city was host for an outdoor Super Bowl.
“We’ve looked at the possibility of ’22, ’23, in that area. We’ll be sitting down with the Jets in the near future to talk about re-energizing to plan that,” Mara said. “We think it was very successful two years ago and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be that successful again. I don’t know that we would get the same weather — we got pretty lucky with that — but we were prepared for everything and it ended up being great weather.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf