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Eli Manning, Victor Cruz Comment on Odell Beckham Jr.'s Maturity, Leadership

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants stands at attention during the National Anthem before playing against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 6, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
Michael Heiman/Getty Images

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has become one of the NFL's most high-profile players thanks to his production and personality. His teammates are hoping the outside noise doesn't prevent him from growing as a professional, though.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post spoke with fellow receiver Victor Cruz and quarterback Eli Manning about the wideout's maturity Friday. Cruz understands the process the 23-year-old rising star is going through and hopes more time will iron out any remaining issues.

"He's becoming, slowly but surely, a professional, understanding the rights and wrongs of this game and the rights and wrongs of his craft," Cruz said. "It's just gonna take more and more reps, more and more time day in and day out to understand what's good and what's bad, but right now, between these lines, he understands."

The LSU product was suspended for one game last season after an intense battle with then-Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. He was flagged four times, including three personal fouls. It's a fine line between maintaining an edge and going overboard.

Cruz told Schwartz he believes the other leaders on the Giants roster must help him understand when to scale things back a bit during the course of a game:

I think he has to temper that. I think it takes people like myself, people like Eli, other leaders on the team to come up to him and say: "Hey, man, we got your back. You don't need to go above and beyond what's being asked of you to do. Go out there and be the great player that you are...go out here and play, everything will take care of itself, we got your back."

Meanwhile, Manning discussed trying to keep Beckham focused on the task at hand, even when he's getting shut out of the offense for short periods.

"It's my job to keep him going when things are going well," he told Schwartz. "But there are going to be games where a defense takes him away for a quarter or a couple series. It's my job to pump him up and find ways to get him the ball, find ways to keep him happy, so he can make plays for us."

Then there's the issue of becoming a marquee celebrity. Beckham stated ahead of last season that he was trying his best to avoid the spotlight, per the New York Post's George Willis, but the always-outspoken Charles Barkley said last week during his appearance on NFL Total Access he thought the wide receiver was becoming "too famous" (via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com).

"He has to be smart, understand that it's OK to say no sometimes, whether on or off the field, to these obligations and understand what his priorities are. I think he understands what his priorities are," Cruz explained to Schwartz. 

Beckham is going to enter the new season as one of the NFL's most important players. The Giants otherwise have a lot of question marks at the position, led by how quickly rookie Sterling Shepard can make an impact and Cruz's recent injury woes.

Perhaps Friday's comments from two of the team's longtime stalwarts are a gentle reminder of the crucial role Beckham's going to play over the next five months. New York needs him 100 percent invested in order to make a serious playoff push.

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