- Associated Press - Thursday, September 13, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - After catching 11 passes and being targeted 15 times in his first game since breaking an ankle 11 months ago, New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. was admittedly sore.

The NFL’s highest-paid receiver was also happy about his game, optimistic about the future, and even a little impish in dealing with his nearby locker room buddy, Saquon Barkley.

For a night, the 25-year-old Beckham walked off with the ball the No. 2 overall draft pick carried on his first NFL touchdown, a 68-yard run against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 20-15 loss.

When asked about the ball Thursday, Beckham kept the joke going.

“No, that’s at my house. It’s gone already,” he quipped as the Giants continued preparations for a Sunday night game in Dallas. “No, I gave it back to him. It’s funny how just being in the locker room, it’s like your brother and you’re joking around with him. Next thing you know, it’s across the entire world. It really was nothing more than me just messing around with my boys. I gave him his ball back.”

Beckham grinned after finishing the sentence, another sign the 25-year-old is enjoying a second chance to play the game he loves after a serious injury to his left ankle.

Barkley confirmed he has the ball.

“There was no way I was not getting that ball back,” Barkley said.

Looking back on Sunday, Beckham said there were some things that could have been better: The precision and depth of his routes, particularly one post route where he was a little off and Eli Manning could not connect with him in the end zone.

It was a first-game thing.

Beckham is excited about the new offense that features Barkley in the backfield and has tight end Evan Engram and receiver Sterling Shepard. All are capable of making big plays.

“We’re always one play away,” Beckham said. “It can be any second of the game. Like you saw him (Barkley) take it 68 yards. That’s what he does. A slant, we’re going 60. Evan is liable to go at any time. I get on Shep all the time: It’s time for you to start taking these slants to the house. It’s a one-play-away offense.”

Beckham is the focal point of it. He says he will gladly take 15 targets every game and the resulting hits that go along with it.

He also won’t mind if the Cowboys interfere with him the way the Jags did. He drew interference calls of 30 and 15 yards late in the second quarter to set up a field goal.

Beckham insisted both plays would have gone for touchdowns had the Jags not used the “Hack-a-Shaq” defense.

For those interested, he does have a special touchdown celebration planned. He also can’t wait to win again.

“There’s no feeling like winning,” said Beckham, whose last win was at the end of the 2016 season. “Just the overall feeling of everybody in the locker room and knowing we did what we had to do. We’ll live on this moment for a little bit. Cool, and then get back to work. Everybody here wants to win, and we know the importance of this game. We know you don’t want to get 0-2, and start the season off that way, even though it is a long season. You just want to start fast and finish fast, and finish strong, too.”

Beckham has already started fast. He just needs his teammates to catch up.

NOTES: CB Janoris Jenkins left the field just before the start of practice because of a family emergency, the team said. Teammates and coaches seemed to be offering support as he returned to the locker room. Jenkins had an interception Sunday. … Shepard returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday with back spasms. … LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) did not practice. … LB Tae Davis (hamstring) and RB Wayne Gallman (knee) were limited. … Barkley had communications with Cowboys running back and former Big Ten Conference opponent Ezekiel Elliott after Sunday’s game. “He texted me saying congratulations on the touchdown run and the start of the season.”


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