Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Updated: September 28, 2:59 PM ET
Rolle is ready for Arizona homecoming
By Ohm Youngmisuk ESPNNewYork.com
Whether he is answering a question about his opponent on his weekly radio spot, or refusing to back down when engaged in a tussle on the field, Antrel Rolle rarely takes a passive approach to anything he does.
In his short time as a Giant, the safety has shown that he is not going to shy away from saying what he believes -- like last week, when he said on WFAN that he wanted Michael Vick to play so the Philadelphia Eagles would have no excuses when the Giants "put it to them the way we will" -- or run from a fight when challenged by an opponent.
Antrel Rolle isn't afraid to mix it up with bigger guys like Brent Celek.
Take his minor scuffle with Eagles tight end Brent Celek late in the second quarter of the Giants' 29-16 win on Sunday. Rolle had just gotten into a shoving match with DeSean Jackson on the play before, and now Celek was getting physical with him. Rolle ended up retaliating and receiving an unnecessary roughness penalty that would eventually help the Eagles score a touchdown on that drive.
While coach Tom Coughlin was not thrilled with the flag, Rolle viewed it as a necessary unnecessary roughness penalty.
"I just had to let them know that I am not a pushover, I am not a punk under any means and sometimes you have to put your foot down," Rolle said. "It is more of a mental toughness and more of an attitude than anything sometimes."
Since signing a five-year, $37 million deal with the Giants in 2010, Rolle has certainly brought an attitude to the Giants' defense.
This coming Sunday, the Giants may feed off Rolle's energy when he returns to Arizona to face the Cardinals, the team that drafted him out of Miami as a cornerback in 2005.
"There's going to be extra special ... you definitely want to go in and give them a show," Rolle said. "But I am not going to let any emotions take me out of the game or make me even more exhausted than I already will be."
"I had a great career there, fans were awesome," Rolle added. "If you get claps or get booed, it doesn't matter."
Rolle certainly evokes mixed reactions from fans with his comments at times. His weekly radio spot has often created headlines thanks to juicy quotes.
From discussing how early the Giants should've shown up to the stadium prior to their loss at Indianapolis last season, to suggesting Coughlin should lighten up, to boasting that the Giants would beat the Redskins 95 out of 100 times after they lost to Washington in Week 1, Rolle speaks his mind and rarely bites his tongue.
"Antrel is the man," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "He came in and quickly became a big part of this team and this defense. He is a guy who is going to hit you in the mouth and he is going to tell you about it afterward. And we like that around here."
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In Arizona, Rolle spent his first three seasons playing cornerback for the Cardinals and had five interceptions in 2007, including three returned for touchdowns. He was converted to safety in 2008 and helped the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl that season.
"That whole playoff run, we came together as a unit," Rolle recalled. "We had a mental toughness that we weren't going to be denied. I've never seen a team come together like we did. No one gave us a chance but we proved everybody wrong."
After he had four interceptions and 61 tackles in 2009, the Cardinals released Rolle for salary purposes, and he joined the Giants, including good friend and fellow Miami product Kenny Phillips.
"I had a great time with that organization and staff," Rolle said of the Cardinals. "Basically their hand was pretty forced. I had a lot of money backed into that last year. Obviously you have to pay a safety $17 million in one year so they were forced to cut me and tried to re-sign me."
As a Giant, Rolle has had to fill a lot of roles for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Last season, he was often asked to play up near the line of scrimmage to help against the run or blitz. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said the Giants asked Rolle to take on a lot of responsibilities last season.
This year, Rolle has been asked to cover receivers in the slot at times after cornerback Terrell Thomas was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the preseason.
So far, Rolle leads the team with 20 tackles. But he also has two unnecessary roughness penalties in three games, the second of which came from his tussle with Celek.
"Antrel is a tough kid and he really plays well down at the line of scrimmage," Coughlin said. "He is very physical. I think for all of us, in the competitive nature of that game, there are so many emotions going on, it really is important to grab ahold of yourself and stay under control."
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"You never know what is going to happen and you are out of control," he added. "You can be ejected. You can cost your team valuable yardage. I know he thought at the half [about] the way I am expressing it [emotion] and hopefully he will learn and we all will learn."
Rolle said he will continue to defend himself if he feels it is necessary.
"If I feel like something has to be done, I am going to handle it and I will take care of disciplinary actions after that," Rolle said. "I wasn't going to get myself ejected [in the Philadelphia game], I am a smart player and I wasn't going to hurt myself or my team by getting ejected. I think I definitely had to make a statement and hold my ground."
"I just felt like sometimes it is bigger than the game," Rolle added about his unnecessary roughness penalty against the Eagles. "I don't want them to get that attitude over us, that they have more swagger than us or they have more passion or more desire or even more toughness."
While Coughlin may want his players to offer more boring quotes and walk away from all altercations on the field, Rolle believes his never-back-down attitude can be a plus for the Giants.
"You definitely have to have swag and definitely have to have attitude," Rolle said. "I am definitely a guy that is never going to back down from any opponent. If you speak it enough, it will come to light."