As the clock ticked under a minute and the AFC championship game marched toward its dispiriting conclusion, CBS cameras caught Odell Beckham Jr. comforting a devastated Zay Flowers on the Ravens sideline. He made his way to Lamar Jackson, who sat shellshocked on the bench, and whispered in his ear.
Then Beckham exchanged handshakes at midfield and walked off the field for what could be his final time as a Raven.
Asked what he told Flowers, Beckham said: “Just letting them know, letting Zay know he’s gonna be a special player. This is a moment in your career that, it’s never gonna break you, it’s always gonna make you, and just being able to be there for [them] however I can.”
Beckham’s season began with such promise. The Ravens brought him in on a one-year, $15 million deal, partly as an olive branch to Jackson, who was still seeking a long-term extension with the franchise. Beckham was introduced at the team’s practice facility in Owings Mills in April, and Jackson signed his $260 million deal three weeks later.
Beckham praised Jackson all throughout training camp and the regular season, and after Jackson’s struggles on Sunday, Beckham stood by the presumptive MVP.
“When you have a player like Lamar who, 30 years from now we’ll speak Lamar Jackson’s name and everyone is gonna know and remember,” Beckham said. “There are certain moments that define you, defining moments in your career. This is just one that will be in his career. The greats have all been through tough times, and I don’t think this is gonna stop him from wanting to get to his ultimate goal. I think if anything he’s gonna work even harder. He wants it bad. I had never seen somebody so locked in and just in that flow and in that era. I just felt like it was his time.”
Beckham knows of what he speaks. The 31-year-old spent a year out of the league, rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered while playing for the Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
“I worked from February 22, 2022 until this point and I haven’t stopped since,” he said. “And there have been some bumps in the road, and there have been some hard times. It’s a lot of demand on your body. It’s a lot of hours people don’t see where you’re at home, you’re doing rehab, you’re doing all of these things. I was just finally starting to feel even better as this game approached, and just wanted to be able to leave my mark, like everybody in here. I was telling some of the younger guys, ‘This is where your legacy is made.’”
One of those younger guys was Flowers, with whom Beckham formed a close bond. As the veteran worked to get his body back to its pre-injury form, he took the rookie under his wing.
“Zay is forever a little bro to me,” Beckham said.
Flowers led the Ravens’ pass catchers with 115 yards and scored Baltimore’s only touchdown on Sunday. But his costly taunting penalty and backbreaking fumble at the goal line effectively ended Baltimore’s comeback attempt.
Beckham was there to remind Flowers of all the good he’d done in the game and over the course of the season.
“Just keep his head, just like everybody else in here,” Beckham said he told Flowers. “There’s no one play that defines a game. There’s still a lot of football that was left in the game. These moments he’ll be able to learn from, become a better man, become a better player, all those things.”
While Flowers should have several more years in Baltimore to write his legacy, Beckham’s future is far murkier. The three-time Pro Bowler once again hits the open market, fresh off a 565-yard season in which he showed flashes of his former self, but lacked consistency.
“I absolutely love this place,” Beckham said when asked about whether he’d be open to a return. “I don’t know the political answer to that question, but I’ve enjoyed every single moment.
“Being here, coach Harbs [John Harbaugh], Steve [Bisciotti], EDC [Eric DeCosta], this felt like a home. It felt amazing for me. I wanted it for the city of Baltimore more than anything. I wanted them to be able to have that moment where we’re all standing on the field and the Bank’s rocking, but just came up short. So like I said, I’ll take a step back, evaluate the future, and go from there.”
The decision won’t just be his. The Ravens wide receiver room benefitted from his experience, but DeCosta might search for a more productive wideout to pair with Flowers this offseason.
Even if Beckham moves on, he still has a fondness for the city and the organization.
“I’ll never forget anything about it. I remember the phone calls before even signing, like, ‘Do you think you’ll be cool in Baltimore? It’s not the most fun in the world.’ This year to me was a year that I’ll never forget in my entire life.”
On Monday, Beckham posted a message to Jackson on X.
“IVE NEVER SEEN NOTHIN LIKE IT. U mean more to me than u ever can imagine,” he wrote. “I appreciate every moment with u. Luv u brudda , this was special.”