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Panthers’ black baseball bat is a red herring in Beckham case

With the league office possibly poised to suspend Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for essentially losing his mind on Sunday, the Panthers believe that the Giants are trying to work the media to justify Beckham’s behavior.

The supposed justification comes from the fact that, for weeks, the Panthers defensive backs have taken a black baseball onto the field during pregame warmups as a motivational tool. As one team source put it, the bat is a “symbol of making home run plays and bringing the wood.”

The source added that, in the opinion of the Panthers, the “Giants are trying to distract from Beckham’s antics.”

That the bat was on the field is undeniable. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has posted video of Norman holding the bat before the game. Elsewhere, video has surfaced of a Panthers player in street clothes carrying the bat toward the Giants as they ran onto the field during the game, at one point motioning with the bat toward the opposing players. (A team source says it’s safety Marcus Ball, a member of the Carolina practice squad.)

Cornerback Bené Benwikere also has posted a photo of himself carrying the bat out of the tunnel last Sunday, prior to the game against the Falcons.

Here’s what Adam Schefter of ESPN had to say about the issue on Facebook: “In pregame warmups, at least one Panthers official, and possibly more, carried black baseball bats on to the field and were motioning with them towards Odell Beckham Jr. while making comments to him, per a league source. Norman later grabbed the black bat and was swinging it in pregame warmups -- which, by the way, an NFL Films camera captured. Beckham, according to another source, felt threatened and it helped put him in a certain frame of mind. It does not excuse what he did during the course of the game, but it does explain what led up to the battle that still is the talk of the league today.”

Sorry, but I’m not buying the idea that Beckham was threatened by a baseball bat unless someone actually brought it onto the field during the game. (“Is that a baseball bat in your football pants or are you just happy to see me?”)

Also, and contrary to Schefter’s use of the term “bats,” there was only one bat. There’s no evidence that the Panthers had more than one bat, which would have been necessary only if the two teams had decided to settle their differences not through a game of football but via a rumble.

The far more likely explanation is that Panthers cornerback Josh Norman pressed Beckham’s buttons during the game, with chatter and an early body slam that contributed to a fuse blowing in Beckham’s brain. But that explanation doesn’t conveniently morph into the kind of excuse that can be used by the Giants to lobby the league office to not suspend Beckham.

However it all happened, it’s on Beckham to control himself. Football is an inherently intense and emotional sport, and Beckham needs to be able to deal with behavior a lot more threatening and intimidating than a baseball bat being waved around before the game even begins.