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Coughlin defends Beckham but not antics vs. Norman


There were at least a dozen people, from the referees to the coaches to the players themselves, accountable for facilitating a brawl between Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman on Sunday. At least a dozen who could have said something or grabbed someone or called attention to what was happening so that we wouldn't have to spend the entire week talking about platitudes like intensity and fear and selfishness and self-control on a level at which none of us can comprehend.

Alas, here we are on Monday, already sweating from the heat of 1,000 takes, trying to digest the fact that Beckham was suspended for one game for his actions on Sunday. He is the first player in Giants history to be suspended for an on-field incident. Giants coach Tom Coughlin spoke Monday and attempted to explain what happened between the two players and why it took so long to address.

And while we're not sure exactly what we wanted Coughlin to say during a conference call with reporters -- After seeing the film, wow, Ron and I should have benched our guys, or even I admitted I wanted him out there for a game-winning drive, but man it wasn't worth it -- what ended up coming out didn't feel quite right, even if Coughlin was frank later on about keeping Beckham in to win.

"I thought it was too bad that today in the world of sports, and from everything I hear from the outside, that the discussion going on is about the personal battle that took place between Odell Beckham and Josh Norman and not about a team that is 14-0 and a game which was at one point 35-7, and ended up being 35-all," he said. "It's too bad that's not what's being emphasized.

"I went further and said this. Look, we all know that personal battles have no presence in the game of football. Not at any level. They're a distraction and they take away from -- they break concentration and they prevent what this thing is all about -- the great game of football being played as a team sport. It’s not about the individual, it's about the team.

"Having said that, there are qualities that Odell Beckham, this young man, brings to this football team. The likes of which I've never seen. He has great energy, great enthusiasm, he gives great effort. He does it literally every day he walks out on the field. He is an emotional young man. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and I will not defend his actions yesterday because they were wrong. This particular franchise and organization does not tolerate that. So I would not do that. But I will defend the young man and the quality of the person. I will defend him as long as I’m able and I told our team that. Our team feels the same way."

Coughlin went on to add that coaches talked with Beckham throughout the game. He also said that he was not aware of the launch hit Beckham made on Norman, which Coughlin admitted was bad.

This really isn't about Beckham, though. As NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport noted, Beckham had to be separated pre-game from Panthers practice squad player Marcus Ball, who was holding a black baseball bat that Panthers players sometimes carry with them during pre-game warmups. Ball at some point gave the bat to Norman, and in the time it took for pre-game to be completed, Beckham was supposedly feeling threatened. You can see video of them with the bat here and here. At the moment, the NFL is looking into the situation.

Clearly, Beckham was not in the right mind coming into the game to begin with. And clearly, no matter how many people spoke to him before the game or spent time with Beckham during the game or saw a Panthers player with a bat and thought man, this is kind of weird, there wasn't a single person who saw the two fighting early on in the game and thought it would be better if Beckham sat down for a quarter.

We come to believe certain things about people, and over time we have associated Tom Coughlin with the military archetype; the one that embodies so many of our great coaches. In the past, Coughlin has fined players for not wearing ties and being late to meetings and wearing cleats that were too colorful on the practice field. He benched players for fumbling and playing poorly. He has attacked opposing coaches for spiking his victory formation. How is this any different? It is a shame that we weren't talking about the end of a great football game, but it's not just the media's fault.

People will try and make this about Beckham and say that he's petulant and immature. Or they'll try and say that the world is out to get him. But what about the people tasked with managing that passion? What about the people on the field who are paid to identify the danger and make it go away?