His memories of playing at Lambeau Field are not pleasant, but receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is looking forward to returning to the stadium on Sunday when the Rams play the Green Bay Packers in a game that could have NFC playoff implications.
In January 2017, on a day that featured a wind-chill factor of 4 degrees, Beckham dropped several passes in the New York Giants’ playoff loss to the Packers. The game was played less than week after Beckham and other Giants receivers had traveled to Miami on a day off, which produced headlines in the days leading up to the game.
“Terrible,” Beckham said Friday, when asked about his memory of the game. “It was one of my worst games…It was just the whole aftermath.
“The world made a thing of a thing. And it wasn’t one of my best experiences.”
But that did not sour Beckham on the possibility of playing the rest of this season at Lambeau Field. Before signing with the Rams, he also considered joining the Packers.
“There was a part of me that wanted to go to Green Bay,” he said. “There’s so much negative history for me behind it, that I wanted to turn it around.
“But, you know, I ended up coming here, and they were on the schedule and it’s like I get an opportunity to play again.
“It’s something like, you lose something — you want your rematch if you’re a competitor. And I definitely am looking forward to this game. Not just because its Lambeau, but because I haven’t got to play like in a long time and I’ve worked very hard to come back from injury. So, I’m just excited about the opportunity.”
In 2020, while playing for the Cleveland Browns, Beckham suffered a season-ending knee injury. He returned this season but after being targeted only once in an Oct. 31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers he asked for and received his release from the Browns.
The Rams signed the three-time Pro Bowl player on Nov. 12 and, with one day of practice, he caught two passes for 18 yards in a 31-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 15.
Sunday’s game will be Beckham’s first chance to play significant snaps for a Rams team seeking to end a two-game losing streak. He said he spent last week improving his physical condition and studying the playbook, and that he was looking forward to turning around his fortunes after another tough November.
“I definitely felt that I haven’t been in that flow that I would have normally stayed in with a regular schedule, so just trying to get back into that,” he said. “Just find my way back to where I know I can be.”
Beckham has adapted well, coach Sean McVay said.
“He’s been a joy to be around,” McVay said. “He’s handled things like a pro — and he’s a really smart player.”
Receivers Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson and quarterback Matthew Stafford have helped make his understanding of play-calls “pretty seamless,” Beckham said.
Stafford was impressed by Beckham’s ability to play against the 49ers with only one practice, and by how much he has grasped since.
“Nine times out of 10, he breaks the huddle with a whole bunch of confidence, knowing what he’s about to do, which is awesome for me as a quarterback to be able to just kind of do my job,” Stafford said.
Beckham’s role against the Packers could go beyond receiver.
Before the game against the 49ers, Beckham was on the field with specialists catching punts.
Asked Friday if Beckham would have a role as punt returner, McVay said, “there’s a possibility.”
Beckham has not returned a punt since the 2019 season, according to profootballreference.com. As a rookie in 2014 he returned 21 punts, but he has returned only 21 since.
Beckham said he would do whatever he is asked.
“I’ve always been all for my team,” he said. “Whatever the media holds up or the outside opinion of who I am, like it’s never bothered me because I know who I truly am. So, it’s whatever to help the team win.
“I told coach, I was like, ‘Coach, can I get a couple receptions and maybe a touchdown before I get out on punt return?’ Like, joking with him because I haven’t really got to catch many passes this year.
“So, I’m willing to do whatever it takes for us to win, and if they need me to do punt return, I’ll do it. So, just find ways to help however I can.”