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Life in a fishbowl: OBJ 'trying to grow' despite feeling crush of scrutiny

BEREA, Ohio – Odell Beckham Jr.'s prediction on Wednesday came true.

“Anything that I say I know is going to take off,” he said during the second day of Cleveland minicamp. “I know there might be one line I said today that's going to be something tomorrow.”

Moments before, Beckham had praised the arm of his new quarterback, Baker Mayfield, noting he’d “have to get adjusted to the speed” because Mayfield was “throwing that ball hard.”

“Just catching him from the first day,” Beckham said, “it was like, ‘Wow, this is completely different.’”

Sure enough, New York media pounced on Beckham’s comments, packaging them as a slight to the arm strength of his former quarterback, Eli Manning. Giants coach Pat Shurmur was even asked to address it Thursday. "I wouldn't say it's criticism of Eli,” Shurmur answered. “It's more, hey, he likes who he’s playing with.”

Whatever Beckham really meant, it served as another reminder of the scrutiny and focus that will remain on him as he moves to recast a perception of himself, on and off the field, in Cleveland.

“I don’t think anybody knows what it’s like to be me, what I go through on a daily basis," Beckham said during a 20-minute group interview session. "Like every single thing I have to deal with, that’s something that nobody else I feel like has to deal with. I feel like I’m in a way different position than anybody else in the NFL. I feel like I deal with more. I take more. There’s things I’ve done in the past. But as a man I’ve tried to grow a lot and tried to put a lot of stuff behind me and it’s like it just keeps getting brought up.’”

Already this year, Beckham was hammered for telling GQ he wanted to help turn the long-suffering Browns into the champion New England Patriots. He also was criticized heavily in Cleveland for skipping voluntary OTAs to focus on his workout regimen instead, a common path for the league’s elite players.

Then came Wednesday’s perceived jab at Manning.

“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’re too good to be out here with the rest of us,’” he said. “It's just a tough situation for me to be in. It’s just something I've gotten used to. As hard as it is, I've gotten used to it.”

Yet even as Beckham said he has gotten used to that perpetual spotlight, he was adamant he’s in a better place than ever before in his pro career.

He pointed to his close relationship with Mayfield, which dates to before Beckham was traded from the Giants in March. He even used the word “brother” to describe Mayfield -- the same word he has reserved for Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry, his former teammate at LSU. Beckham noted that Browns coach Freddie Kitchens also being from the South has helped the two form a quick bond.

Beckham said the new setting in Cleveland, new Browns teammates and overall new start have helped put him on a better plane, underscored by his beaming demeanor this week throughout minicamp.

“Mentally, physically, spiritually, I‘ve gone to a different place,” he said. “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. Shots get taken, I’m ‘Quick Draw McGraw’ and can fire back.

“But I really am trying, deep down inside, to grow and mature and be a man, and I’ve taken big steps to [do] that, so I’m just gonna keep moving forward, keep taking those steps.”

Steps, he hopes, that finally will lead him -- and Cleveland -- to a championship.

Dating to before his teenage years, Beckham said he never has won one. He recalled the story of making it to a championship game in the sixth grade and making a half-court shot he thought had won the game. Instead, officials waved off the shot. And Beckham said he cried the entire night.

“I don't know why else you got in this game. I didn't get in this game to get money, or anything like that,” he said. “I got in this game to be a champion.

“I want to win. I want to be a champion.”