Watch CBS News

Steady Antrel Rolle Remains The Conscience Of The Giants Franchise

By Curt Macysyn

Calling Antrel Rolle the heart and soul of the New York Giants' defense would not do justice to what the veteran safety brings to the table. Over the years, Big Blue's forays into free agency have not always proven successful. Players like Michael Boley, David Baas and Chris Canty could not finish the term of their contracts with New York, before the Giants tapped out and ate millions of dollars. To the contrary, Rolle has become the exception to the rule for the Giants, as he will finish out the full term of his contract with the team. In addition to that fact, the former University of Miami Hurricane will also be worth every penny of the $9.2 million that the G-men are paying him this season.

This week, the affable safety finds himself graded in the middle of the pack by Pro Football Focus (PFF), nestled behind such names as Louis Delmas, Patrick Chung and Dawan Landry. But candidly, the only safeties in the NFL that are as important to their defensive units as Rolle is to the Giants are Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh) and Earl Thomas (Seattle). But Rolle also has the additional characteristic of being the ever-reliable spokesman, not just for the team, but for the franchise. 

In fact, head coach Tom Coughlin should be lobbying general manager Jerry Reese every day to extend Rolle's contract now, and not wait until Rolle gets bowled over by an offer to bring his services to a team that recognizes that they would not just be getting a safety, but the conscience of the franchise. Around professional football and sports in general, there are not that many of these prototypes to go around.

Coughlin is the beneficiary of Rolle's presence in many different ways, locker room presence and on-field leadership, to name a couple. But it is also Rolle that allows Coughlin to do his best Mr. Magoo imitations with the New York media. For example, Coughlin denied that Odell Beckham's hamstring injury was a setback in August, despite the fact that the rookie receiver spent six more weeks on the shelf after the injury occurred. So are we to understand that this was the game plan all along? To have Beckham miss the first four games of the regular season in order to make his debut against the Atlanta Falcons. Or another Coughlin gem that surfaced this week when asked about the seriousness of running back Rashad Jenning's injury; he replied, "I have no idea." 

While Rolle cannot take the place of the head coach, his availability and honest assessments allow reporters to do their jobs, despite the fact that Coughlin still believes media members are the enemy. But it is not like the team can conjure up a replacement for Rolle overnight. Being the conscience of the franchise can only be done when a player has established roots, as well as maintaining a high level of play. In addition, the player must be respected by his peers to a point where an honest assessment is not seen as a dig, and he must be willing to take as well as give.

Throughout the 2013 campaign, Antrel Rolle provided cover for Reese through his consistent message that the players could play better, even though Reese put together a flawed roster that depended upon far too many variables for the team to compete, especially along the offensive line. But in his end of the year press conference, Reese never owned the fact that he put an inferior product on the field, instead he said, "Well, everybody is disappointed. Everybody is disappointed and nobody is more disappointed probably than our players and our coaches that our offense didn’t play as well as we expect our offense to play. We turned the ball over at an alarming rate, it’s hard to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we turned it over. That’s something that we have to address and we have to fix."

The implication was that if the team did not turn the ball over so much, then their record would be different. Although turnovers were a problem, that problem likely emanated from poor offensive line play to begin with. And of course Reese made sure everyone knew that he wanted Eli Manning to "own" his contributions to the 7-9 record of 2013. Only when Giants' co-owner John Mara took to the podium, could fans feel confident that he saw some of the same things that they did, that his general manager put together a flawed roster and new players were needed. Instead of acknowledging that he should have done better by surrounding a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with more talent, Reese gave the typical pablum to the media by "I don’t have the answers but obviously, you could start with me."

If Reese sincerely believed he needed to do better, his demeanor and subsequent statements certainly hid that, as the more the general manager spoke that day, the more blame was spread around to players and coaches. Which brings us back to Antrel Rolle. After Sunday's victory against the Atlanta Falcons, the team's most important win since the Giants' victory over the New Orleans Saints in Dec. 2012, Rolle met the media like he always does, except this time, he could have been the goat as his missed tackle of the Falcons' Antone Smith directly led to the go-ahead score in the third quarter. While Rolle missed the tackle, additional support from his teammates, most notably, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was no where to be found.

"It was an all-out blitz. I had position on the back. I had coverage on the back. I knew exactly what was happening. I knew the play, because I studied that play several times. I just came up short. I didn’t make the for-sure tackle. The way I look at it, it was third-and-3. Instead of trying to make the tackle so they don’t get the first down, I should’ve made the for-sure tackle. So I kind of cut my angle a little short, trying to push them back a few yards, and I should’ve just kept running at an angle and made the for-sure tackle. It’s something I can learn from, a mistake on my part, but you’ve got to forgive and drive on. That’s the name of the game. I take things pretty hard on myself. I consider myself a very good tackler, a for-sure tackler, so it’s just great that the offense had my back on that, that the defense had my back, and we didn’t miss a beat from that point on. I give credit to my teammates for that," Rolle said after the game. 

But this type of answer signifies why he is the conscience of the franchise. Rolle did not just give an answer, he answered the question. And he threw himself under the bus in the process. Unlike many others faced with the same situation, he did so in a genuine manner, and not with gratuitous quote, and there is something to be said for that.

And before the sports talking heads begin their invariable comparisons to another product of the "U," retired linebacker Ray Lewis, understand this, Antrel Rolle answers questions, and Ray Lewis likes to hear Ray Lewis speak. 

Fans of Big Blue can be assured that before the 2014 NFL season is over, Antrel Rolle will make more important plays for the Giants than not, and he will answer the media's questions sincerely and with an honest perspective, and his mere presence makes the Giants' locker room a no-spin zone.

With all of these tangibles and intangibles on the line in the upcoming months, hopefully Jerry Reese will not be spinning how Rolle found greener pastures with another franchise in March 2015.

For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.

Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.