They are called Diva Receivers for a reason
They are called Diva Receivers for a reason. We tend to find out why when NFL pass catchers open their mouths.
Cases in point most recently would be two of football’s biggest stars, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. What they’ve spouted, no matter how it gets spun and by whom, can’t be anything but detrimental to the team.
The history of wideouts with wide mouths — or free rein on social media nowadays — includes, naturally, the likes of Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, Keyshawn Johnson and Chad Johnson/Ochocinco. To call their utterings constructive criticism would be like calling Lambeau Field balmy in December.
And they hardly are the only guys who have damaged the locker room vibes with their, well, bad vibes. Do you think cornerback Jalen Ramsey deriding opposing players made for comfortable feelings in Jacksonville? Guard Richie Incognito bullying a teammate in Miami? Jay Cutler calling out his own guys just about everywhere, including on the sideline?
Hey, cornerback Josh Norman and Beckham pretty much came to blows in a 2015 game after their trash-talking shenanigans.
Sure, lots if not most NFL players like to run their tongues during games. Philip Rivers might not be the greatest Chargers quarterback ever — remember Hall of Famer Dan Fouts? — but he’s unquestionably the franchise’s great trash-spewing QB. Steve Smith, one of the most combative receivers the NFL has seen, definitely didn’t believe in the bromide “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing.”
And Ray Lewis not only was an all-world tackler and leader for the Ravens, his stream of words directed at opponents was steady — and often comical, if unprintable.
But in the particular cases of Brown and Beckham, there can be considerable negative fallout for their clubs. So much so that the tension and mistrust they create can be as damaging as a fourth-quarter pick-6 by an opponent.
Brown might be the NFL’s most talented offensive player. He might also be the most thin-skinned.
Among other items this year, he tweeted that Pittsburgh should “trade me let’s find out” when it was suggested his success is due more to Ben Roethlisberger than to Brown’s skills. Brown also didn’t show up at team headquarters for a day last month, and famously once livestreamed a locker room celebration following a playoff victory over Kansas City.
He also used Twitter in September to threaten a reporter who covers the team, forcing the Steelers to issue an apology. Explaining away Brown’s behavior, words and social media posts has become nearly a regular chore in Pittsburgh.
All of this doesn’t mean Brown needs to be sat down by the Steelers, which isn’t likely to happen considering they are in the business of winning games and he is their best player. It does mean he should be sat down and told that his proclamations and actions are a distraction for a team that isn’t exactly tearing up the NFL, sitting tied with Cleveland and behind Cincinnati and Baltimore in the AFC North.
The Beckham blowups have been more inflammatory and, without question, potentially more harmful. When you question your teammates’ heart while carefully removing yourself from such a claim, irreparable damage often results.
“A lot of it has to do with the energy we have that we don’t bring every single day,” he said last week. “You know me, I’m a passionate, energetic person. I always have to have that. If I don’t, it’s going to be a problem for me. Playing with some heart, we need to play with some heart.”
Beckham also blasted the play-calling of first-year coach Pat Shurmur, mainly because, in Beckham’s view, he wasn’t getting the ball enough, particularly deep. Never mind that the offensive line has been such a sieve that asking Eli Manning to throw balls anywhere downfield has often been problematic.
Recognizing how counter-productive his comments were — or being instructed by a livid coach or, perhaps, someone higher up in the Giants’ command chain — Beckham went into crisis control last Sunday. He asked to speak to the team in the locker room, and then he ran something of a fly pattern away from his earlier statements.
This season is hardly the first time Brown or Beckham have acted up or acted out. It probably won’t be the last. But maybe the concept of “team first” will sink in before what they do or say sinks their teams.