There was a time when Antrel Rolle seemed like he just wasn't going to get it. When it seemed like the five-year, $37.5-million free-agent marriage between the vocal safety and the New York Giants wasn't going to work. When Rolle seemed headed for Tiki Barber/Jeremy Shockey status.
How times have changed.
Did you catch what defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said after Rolle sprained his ankle on Monday?
"He’s one of the building blocks. He’s a brick. He’s always there. He’s tough. He’s the motor that sails us. His presence is always valuable for us."
Think Fewell sees Rolle as vital to the defense? His "the motor that sails us" line tells you everything you need to know.
There was a time back in 2010 when Rolle, in his first year with the Giants, was seemingly having a hard time getting used to the Giants' way -- meaning the Tom Coughlin way.
Remember when he called out the coaching staff following an embarrassing loss to Indianapolis? His "I don't think the coaches gave us a chance," and "It's not all about the players, sometimes" comments made it seem like the Giants might be forced to send Rolle's ship sailing right out of the Meadowlands.
I will admit to being one of those who thought Rolle needed to either be quiet and learn his place or simply go somewhere else where he could talk all he wanted. I will also admit that, in the end, I couldn't have been more wrong about the guy.
Apologies to defensive captain Justin Tuck and the unit's best player, Jason Pierre-Paul, but Rolle now seems to be the leader of the defense. Tuck might still be the face of the group, but it is Rolle who has become the group's heart and soul.
That became the case prior to the Super Bowl run in 2011 when Rolle called out his teammates for their practice habits, and has seemingly grown from there.
What Rolle is doing this week is a big part of the reason why Fewell feels the way he does. Injured on Monday and thought to be shelved for several weeks, but out of the walking boot on Wednesday and showing great resolve to get back on the field as soon as possible. If the young players on the Giants don't learn something about being a professional from that then they aren't paying attention. If the veterans don't look at that and wonder if they are doing enough to be ready that too is on them.
That's leadership. Four seasons ago I didn't believe Rolle had it in him. Now I'm not sure what the Giants would do without the leadership Rolle provides.
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