Training camp presents the first opportunity for fans to get an up-close look at receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the orange and brown, so it’s fair to assume all eyes will be trained on No. 13 starting Thursday.
That’s nothing new for Beckham.
The three-time Pro Bowler and one of the most famous athletes in the world — 13.4 million Instagram followers — spent five years in New York with the Giants and is used to life under the microscope.
That doesn’t mean he loves it.
Teammates and fans will continue to gain insight and perspective into Beckham’s personality in his first season with the Browns, but when he showed up at mandatory minicamp in June he provided a glimpse at what it’s like to be OBJ.
Consistent topic of conversation. Misunderstood. Adored. Criticized. Emulated.
“I don’t think anybody knows what it’s like to be me and what I go through on a daily basis,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a way different position than anybody else in the NFL. I feel like I deal with more.”
Fellow receiver Blake Jackson has known Beckham for a while, and observed his popularity once again during a night at the bowling alley in June.
“It was kinda hard just to do that, just a simple thing, go out and enjoy our time together,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t imagine it. It’s just what comes with it.
“The way he handles it is very professional. He’s never lashed out at anybody.”
Make no mistake, Beckham isn’t a wallflower. He does an ESPN interview with Lil Wayne, posts constantly to Instagram, goes on Twitter rants, wears a kilt to the Met Gala and follows up with a tank-top pouch at the ESPYs. He also has the infamous run-in and makeup with the sideline kicking net on his resume.
He feels he receives unfair treatment.
“There’s things I’ve done in the past but as a man I’ve tried to grow a lot and try to put a lot of stuff behind me and it’s like it just keeps getting brought up,” Beckham said. “I’ve never been in trouble, I’ve never been in handcuffs, I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket really.
“Mentally, physically, spiritually, I’ve gone to a different place. For the people that know me they know I’m in a place I’ve never been in in my entire life and I’m just happy with where I am at and I’m always going to keep it pushing.”
One of the reasons — besides the immense talent — general manager John Dorsey felt comfortable trading for Beckham in March was the presence of receiver Jarvis Landry and receivers coach Adam Henry. Landry and Beckham have been best friends since they were teenagers, and Henry coached Beckham at LSU and with the Giants.
Henry said Beckham “most definitely” gets a bad rap.
“Because most people don’t know him,” he said. “Being in a market as the other place is, they welcome media and so a lot of times people don’t always write the good stuff. But if you talk to anybody in the locker room, the things that he does for his teammates, they would tell you.
“Very passionate, sincere, plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s just a guy who loves to compete.”
Landry said at minicamp he had to pinch himself that he was really sharing a meeting room with his buddy.
“I know the competitive nature that he has inside of him is different. It’s very different,” Landry said. “He’s going to push myself. He’s going to push the room. He’s going to push a lot of guys on this team.”
Beckham’s competitive streak extends beyond the field. He referred to an April social media exchange with followers as a “therapy session” and explained further in minicamp.
“If shots get taken, I’m a quick draw and can fire back,” he said. “I have to sit here and hear from everybody in the world, and I want to have fun, too. I’m sarcastic, I like to have fun, too, we can’t joke back and forth?
“Have you seen the video of the lion getting attacked by 18 hyenas, he didn’t sit there and just get bit.”
The global superstar should remind Cleveland fans of the departed LeBron James. Beckham is a pop culture icon, has his own line of Nike shoes and hangs out with celebrities.
The intense spotlight brings unrelenting scrutiny, which Beckham was reminded of again when he said he planned on turning the Browns into the next Patriots.
“I feel like I could sit in a corner in a room full of people and not try and bother anybody and it would be like, ‘You too good to be out here with the rest of us?’ It’s just a tough situation for me to be in,” he said. “Anything that I say I know is going to take off.”
Beckham spent only a handful of days with his new teammates during the offseason program. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has known Beckham longer and stressed the need for him to develop relationships across the roster.
“It’s important for this team, the mentality that we have, we’re all in it together,” Mayfield said.
Beckham said that won’t be a problem.
“I feel as if I’m a chameleon. Like I adapt to survive,” he said. “That’s just what I’ve always done, so when I’m in here, I try and sit with a different person at lunch, try and talk to them, get to know them.
“It just kind of all takes some getting adjusted to but I’ve never had a problem with any teammate ever in my career. I still try and build a relationship with every and anybody who’s in that locker room.”