EAST RUTHERFORD — One of Odell Beckham Jr.'s Giants teammates finally had enough of opponents taking borderline cheap shots at the star wide receiver.
After catching a slant pass in the third quarter of last Sunday's 28-23 win over the Eagles, Beckham took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaylen Watkins. Immediately, Giants right tackle Bobby Hart grabbed Watkins and threw him off of Beckham. Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham responded with a shove to Hart's head that drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Beckham was shaken up on the play and left the game briefly. Only later did he realize how quickly Hart responded.
"I actually didn't see it until I watched the film, but I love it," Beckham told NJ Advance Media. "Not in a sense of somebody is coming in and taking shots at other guys on the team, but in the sense of knowing that somebody out there has your back each and every play. That's what you play for. It reminds me of when you were in college and you were out there and you played for your brothers. No matter what — right, wrong or indifferent — they're going to have your back. He's a guy who's had my back."
Reflecting on his infamous duel with Josh Norman last December, Beckham lamented in an offseason interview with GQ that "there weren't a lot of people who, so to say, had my back during that game, that's for sure."
A 2015 seventh-round draft pick, Hart was a backup last season. He has started six straight games at right tackle this season and has embraced his role as an enforcer for Beckham and the rest of the Giants' skill players.
"You know how they try to do Odell and hit him a little extra hard to try to get him off his game," Hart said. "That's my teammate, that's my boy. I'm not going to let them do it. That's all that was."
Hart will need to be on guard Monday night when the Giants host a chippy Bengals defense led by Vontaze Burfict, who is widely considered the NFL's dirtiest player.
"I know how teams try to get him off his game by laying on him extra and doing all types of extra stuff, so I just let him know that I've got him," Hart said. "It's not just something that I talk about. It's something that I'm going to chase after the ball, whether he's got it or any of our teammates. Just covering those guys because (opponents) know how dynamic all our receivers are, so they've got to figure out another way to stop them."
Beckham and Hart have developed a tight bond over their shared desire to be the best.
"We just want to be the greatest," Hart said. "I want to be the greatest right tackle to ever play for the Giants and he wants to be the greatest receiver. We've got the same mindset."
"He's a guy who enjoys working more than people would know," Beckham said. "He loves coming to work. He gets it in every day and he's trying to be the best player that he can be. He's doing a great job."
Hart's enthusiasm got the best of him after Beckham scored a touchdown against the Eagles. As Beckham did his touchdown dance, the overexcited 6-foot-5, 334-pound Hart knocked the receiver to the ground with a hit to the head from behind.
"I love it. Just hit me in my back next time," Beckham said with a laugh. "He hit me in the back of my head. I love it. I love his energy, his enthusiasm, how much he cares for it. It's tough to find in this league."
Dan Duggan | nj.com | November 14, 2016