Mag: How Rolle saved the Giants' season

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
12:33
PM ET
It's no secret that the NFL is a copycat league. Yet as training camps open and teams put their best-laid plans in place, even the zaniest coaches wouldn't dare emulate the reigning champs. Last season, the Giants went from a 7-7 defensive mess to champions following a Super Bowl upset. Their turning point was a moment that seemed to violate the most cherished tenets of locker room protocol -- and that might have buried the season of any other team.

After a crushing Week 15 loss to Washington left New York on the playoff fringe, a Giants player publicly called out the team. It wasn't a superstar like Eli Manning or even a veteran mainstay like Chris Snee. It was safety Antrel Rolle, who in two seasons with the Giants had feuded with Tom Coughlin, ripped fans for booing and eschewed political correctness. At first it seemed nothing short of reckless when the seven-year vet criticized players for sitting out all week and then playing on Sunday. "This s-- starts in practice," he railed to the media. "If you're injured, so be it. We understand that. But nicks and bruises? Everyone needs to be on the field, because we're not getting better like this."

To read the rest of this story from ESPN The Magazine, click here. (Free)

Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.

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