villain no more? Ahead of the Super Bowl, the Rams praise Odell Beckham Jr. as a model teammate

Odell Beckham Jr. was once known as the NFL's most explosive player -- in more ways than one. Now many say that perception has not caught up with reality.

USA About: Rams Publish: 02/13/2022 Edit: 02/13/2022 Author: Gardener

Odell Beckham Jr.LOS ANGELES -- As Odell Beckham Jr. aims for his first championship ring, it's jarring to think he's no better than the third-best wide receiver to play in Super Bowl 56 -- at least based on how the 2021 season has gone. But players like Los Angeles Rams Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp and Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase are nowhere near as close to the still vibrant legacy that OBJ somehow created in just eight NFL seasons. It was evident this week that there is a genuine peace in Beckham, 29, who exuded remarkable confidence while seeming fully aware of his august place in the league's pantheon. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. "I appreciate you saying I'm only 29 because a lot of the conversations I've had are really trying to make me feel like the old head," he told USA TODAY Sports, when he was asked about his influence on so many young players. "Knowing the responsibility I have to set a standard, knowing that some of them look up to me, is why I feel the way I am now rather than the 23-year-old me .” I remember when I was in Cleveland, (Browns rookie) Anthony Schwartz came up to me and said, "Yeah bro, I remember seeing you in high school." And I say, 'You don't have to tell me that, I don't have to hear that.' It's crazy because my 29 feels like I've been in the league for 12 years. I feel like so much has happened - ups and downs, good and bad - it feels like a very long career in a short amount of time." Selected 12th overall by the New York Giants in 2014, costing a hamstring injury Beckham entered the first month of his rookie season against the Dallas Cowboys - everyone knew who OBJ was after he caught cornerback Brandon Carr with a hand from 43 yards It was the epitome of a viral highlight and changed everything for Beckham: "It was after the catch, I literally watched life change. I watched how people treated me," he mused. "Everything changed after the catch. More than seven years later, Beckham stars in his first Super Bowl Meanwhile, he was a Pro Bowler; sometimes a sideshow; traded from the Giants to the Browns; often injured — including a cruciate ligament tear that ended his 2020 season early — and cut by Cleveland last November for reasons no one could satisfactorily explain. Yet despite the theatrics over the years and the polarizing image OBJ has cultivated, that portrayal doesn't seem to tally with reality. SUPER BOWL 56 BREAKDOWN: Who will come out on top as Rams and Bengals take the field? MOVE OVER, TOM BRADY: Rams' Andrew Whitworth is delighted with his new status as the NFL's oldest active player. Ask anyone in the Rams about Beckham and there's a continuous line connecting the answers. Reality.' From the outside, you thought he was a selfish player, a guy who just wanted to play and didn't care about his teammates," Rams receiver coach Eric Yarber said. "But in reality he's not a selfish player - he loves his teammates, he plays for his teammates. He's preparing just like the rest of the guys. The effort he puts on the field is like all greats - you don't have to push him. He wanted to be coached and he wanted to get better, he wanted to be a good teammate. It wasn't like, 'Give me the ball, give me the ball.' "Odell has been a great teammate since he's been here," Van Jefferson said of Be Better Off And I'm Learning From Him. He came straight into the game, he learned the playbook as well as he had to and he's played all over the field. He's definitely one of my favorite teammates I've ever had. Receiver and return specialist Brandon Powell adds, "When a player like that of this caliber comes up to you and says, 'Man, you're going to put one in the house,' or 'I need a big return from you,' that just gives you additional motivation. It's like, "This is Odell Beckham, one of the best receivers in the game, he believes in you." That gives an extra boost: "It was a great feeling to be on a team with him, just to have a player like that." Even Kupp, who has perhaps the most impressive season that a receiver has ever had with 170 catches and 2,333 yards 20 TDs in 20 games - is amazing. “That he does what he does – that he produces the way he did – speaks volumes for the player he is, the teammate he is, the football intelligence that he has to be able to do that stuff to learn and be able to go out and do it. It was so impressive to watch him work," Kupp said, noting how quickly Beckham synthesized coach Sean McVay's playbook while trying to fill the void left by receiver Robert Woods' season-ending knee injury had arisen. "I just have a lot of respect for him and the football player that he is -- and that's not just what he does on the football field, it's how he handles it that was jettisoned from Cleveland. He wasn't worried about debunking naysayers when he came to LA, and knew better than to expend so much energy trying to live up to outlandish expectations that he would hurt himself again. "The perception of me will go into the room before I enter the room," he said. "If I carry that energy and try to be someone they don't think I am instead of just being me, it's never going to go right. MORE: SoFi Stadium, site of Super Bowl 56, is a billionaire dream for three and a nightmare for thousands 'ONE HELLUVA STORY': How Kelly and Matthew Stafford found happiness and a Super Bowl in LA What is the source of the Beckham Admiration Society, especially as it might not be obvious to outsiders? "OBJ is quite possibly the most influential football player, other than Tom Brady, that we've seen in the NFL since maybe Michael Vick," Andrew Hawkins, former Bengals receiver turned NFL Network analyst, told USA TODAY Sports. "A lot of people don't understand that, but you have to be aware that when OBJ comes into a dressing room, it's not just a football player that comes into a dressing room - it's an icon. "It's a lot of these guys in the locker room - especially young people - that's someone they looked up to. When OBJ became OBJ — I was at soccer camps, I saw all the little kids, all rocking blonde Mohawks, trying to catch the ball with one hand, trying to dress like him, look like him, like him to dance. Beckham, who has more than 15 million followers on Instagram, understands how important football camps have been to him and the importance of his desire to personally coach and mentor each youngster. He donated his Super Bowl tickets to the Watts Rams, a local youth team sponsored by Beckham's Rams. "It's why I do this," OBJ said, "It warms my heart." "Boys like you are what keep me going." 🎥 @obj surprises @WattsRams with tickets to #SBLVI + Rams reveal two new murals at Dymally High School! - Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 5, 2022 And maybe that says more about who Beckham is. “There's a lot of talk about who he is as a teammate, but you never hear any of his teammates say he's a bad teammate. That's rare," Hawkins said. "He's the easiest target in the NFL, but you don't hear it because it's just not true. He's not a bad teammate. Beckham knows it can get hot. "In the world we live in, it's easier to sell something that has little more drama than the honest and good stories," he says. "To me, he's a generational talent," said Cincinnati receivers coach Troy Walters. "Anytime someone is a generational talent and can do the things that they do on the field - with ease - people are attracted to it. "He's got a great personality, always seems excited, happy and happy to play the game and that rubs off on his peers and people want to be like him." Like Beckham, the Bengals' newest star hails from Louisiana and attended LSU... like Beckham. OBJ spent time with Chase's 2019 national championship team, but now the young standout can't wait to finally share a field with his Rookie of the Year predecessor. "It's going to be an amazing experience to see him play (in person) for the first time," said Chase. "I didn't see him play when he was with the Browns, but I'm looking forward to seeing him." Beckham had a modest regular season with the Rams, catching 27 catches for 305 yards and five TDs in eight games. But even though Kupp is quarterback Matthew Stafford's main target, OBJ again resembles a No. 1 receiver in the playoffs, where he had 19 grabs for 236 yards and one point tally in three contests. Excellent hand-eye coordination. I just think a change of scenery helped him." Beckham was massive in winning the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, his 113 yards marking the first time he'd surpassed the century mark in more than two years. His joy on on the field was obvious, but Beckham also took time to comfort Niner's All-Pro Deebo Samuel, who was taking the loss hard. "This whole thing was a full-circle moment for me," OBJ said and Noted that the Super Bowl will be his first game against the Bengals since tearing his knee in Cincinnati on Oct. 25, 2020 and enduring the challenges that followed: "Once you play with that joy in your heart, only good ones come." Things are happening." Today , he's a man who's only too happy to share his testimony. He's a man awaiting fatherhood, his first child is about to be born any moment — albeit Be ckham fervently hopes he can attend the birth and play in the Super Bowl. Finally, this could be the time when the perception of OBJ as the all-time great of rea could be cemented. "I am truly blessed and grateful for this opportunity, but the job is definitely not over yet. I just want to hold on and be able to lift that trophy and share that memory with brothers," he said. I just want to find a way to take advantage of that, man, and be able to call myself world champion.” Ahead of the Super Bowl, Rams praise Odell Beckham Jr. as a model teammate

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