Antrel Rolle: Tom Coughlin motivation

Updated: January 2, 2012, 10:00 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Antrel Rolle hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with Tom Coughlin, hasn't always agreed with the New York Giants head coach's old-school style or approach.

And the safety admits he did wonder if he made a mistake signing with the Giants prior to last season.

But as he prepares to play his first playoff game as a Giant and for Coughlin, Rolle enters as a Coughlin convert. The safety, who said last year that he was "not having the fun" playing for Coughlin, was highly motivated to save Coughlin's job this season.

"I have many different reasons why I attack and play as hard as I do," Rolle said. "And I will be honest to say, one of them is Coach Coughlin. We didn't get off to the best of the best start. Not saying anything about him as a person because I have always loved Coach Coughlin as a person. But we didn't agree with certain things."

"He understands me better this year as a player and I definitely understand him a lot better as a coach, and I respect him as a coach," he continued. "When you have speculation that your coach's job is up for grabs or any kind of threatening situation, I take that very personal. No coach that Antrel Rolle is playing for should (have) his job up for grabs."

The Giants had to win their final two games against the Jets and Cowboys to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. They host Atlanta on Sunday.

Rolle says a major part of the motivation to fight these last few weeks was Coughlin. Players rallied around the 65-year-old head coach, whose future is often under scrutiny whenever the Giants struggle in the second half of seasons.

"I have always loved him as a guy," Rolle said. "He is probably one of the better men I have ever been around. Him and his coaching style, it's definitely (never) been anything I have ever been a part of which is fine, we are all different people. (But) eventually you are going to get with his program. He is the bossman and we are his soldiers. We got to get with his program and it works. Eventually it works. I was a little stubborn. I was... whatever it was, at that point. But we are all on deck."

"I am sure guys feel the same way I feel," he added. "For his job to be talked about and speculation about him maybe not being here, that is a reflection of us."

Rolle signed a five-year, $37-million deal in the spring of 2010 to play for the Giants. But the former Arizona Cardinal had a hard time adjusting to Coughlin's no-nonsense approach last season. After a loss in Indianapolis early last season, Rolle questioned whether the Giants needed to show up at the stadium so early before the night game.

During the offseason, Rolle reiterated that Coughlin needed to lighten up. But the two have gotten to know each other over time and a bond was formed.

The outspoken safety also established himself as one of the strongest voices in the locker room.

"He is an emotional guy and he wears it on his sleeve," Coughlin said. "I would think it would take a while for someone coming into a program just to figure out what it is all about, who's who. Last year we had 10 wins and didn't get in so there's some frustration. There's been some frustration which has been dealt with pretty well quite frankly this year as well. Now we are seeing the result of having some patience and continuing to work which this team has done, they have worked through many issues throughout the course of the year and come back stronger."

The two men may not always agree with how they both approach things. Certainly Coughlin didn't agree with Rolle venting to the media after the Giants' loss to the Redskins three weeks ago about how injured players needed to start practicing through minor aches and pains to set a tone in practice.

But Rolle got results as players credited the safety with striking a chord in the locker room.

Rolle said he spent much of the offseason talking to his family and friends and decided to alter his outlook on Coughlin. He said his mother reminded him that he was in a golden situation playing in New York and needed to see if Coughlin's way worked.

"I think it had more to do with me than him," Rolle said. "I was never used to this coaching style. I admit I was extremely frustrated at times, a lot of things I probably didn't agree with. It was a different situation for me, all the way around, I really didn't know how to handle it."

"But I took time this offseason and got my mind right," Rolle continued. "Whatever (Coughlin) said, just try to go by and let's see how it works. And it worked out fine. Hopefully he can be here for my whole time here and if not, we will send him out with a bang."

Rolle also says he is starting to feel more like himself on the field. He also credits a heart-to-heart sitdown with safety Deon Grant prior to the Jets win two weeks ago with helping him play carefree.

Grant told Rolle that he was trying to do too much on and off the field. The Giants have played Rolle all over the field in the last two seasons. This year, he has had to cover slot receivers and he expressed frustration with his role and inability to roam and be a "ballhawk." Since the talk with Grant, Rolle had his second interception of the season against the Cowboys and has a total of 15 tackles in the last two games.

Now Rolle enters the playoffs side by side with Coughlin as one of his loyal soldiers. The two did not take the smoothest path here. But Rolle wouldn't have it any other way.

"You know, I am not an easy cookie all the time," he admitted. "Things started off so rocky between us. There are still going to be certain times when we still might not be on the same page and that is a part of life. As long as we can work through it and get on that same page and keep that one goal in mind -- which is to win a championship -- things will be great."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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