- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ohm Youngmisuk has this from New York Giants camp on safety Antrel Rolle, who has shown an impressive ability to pick his spots as his own type of leader during his time with the Giants, and understands that he might have to pick more of them this season:
Already considered one of the most respected veterans, Rolle realizes the Giants will be looking to him to help replace the leadership lost in the locker room, with Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley, Chris Canty, Chase Blackburn and Kenny Phillips all gone.
"I understand pretty much what it takes to be a leader a whole lot more this year, for whatever reason," Rolle, entering his fourth season with the Giants, said at the end of minicamp in June. "I think there are natural-born leaders. Some people try to adapt to it. I know I'm a natural-born leader."
I like Rolle as a locker-room guy for the Giants, and I think the fact that he's an unconventionally strong locker-room guy adds to his appeal. The standout moment came of course in the locker room following the loss to the Rex Grossman Redskins that dropped the Giants to 7-7 in 2011. That was the day Rolle made his comment about how guys who had nagging injuries might need to start practicing through them -- a comment that some of the more traditionally acknowledged locker-room leaders later admitted spurred them to action. But in a room filled with proud veterans, Rolle's approach to speaking up and picking his spots as a leader is appreciated, and he's probably right that he'll get (and should take) more opportunities this season.
My questions with Rolle this season are on-field ones -- specifically, what kind of player can he be in the absence of Kenny Phillips. When Phillips couldn't play last season, the answer to that question wasn't a great one for Rolle. He'll have to adjust his game this offseason knowing that Phillips won't be back (since he's with the Eagles now), and it remains to be seen whether the Giants' plans at safety will allow Rolle to settle into one comfortable spot rather than switching off roles with his opposite number as he and Phillips did so well. It's possible they'll just uncomplicate things and that Rolle will thrive, or that he'll step up his game with Phillips gone and lead a secondary that has to play better than it did last season.
What's certain is that this is a big, prove-it year for Rolle, as it is for Justin Tuck and David Diehl and some other championship-tested Giants vets. Rolle's salary-cap number is getting prohibitive, and unless he plays like a star this season, it's going to be tough for the Giants to keep him for 2014.