It's hard to imagine the 2011 NFL playoffs without the frequent banter of Giants CB Antrel Rolle, but it almost happened that way, according to Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger.
Garafolo writes that for a long time Rolle was considering leaving the Giants. The key reason is right there in the position label. Rolle wasn't happy about playing nickel cornerback for the Giants. He wanted to play safety. He didn't like defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's schemes either, and so he wanted out.
"He kept telling us he wanted out," Giants safeties coach David Merritt told The Star-Ledger.
Merritt implored him to stay, particularly after a disappointing loss to the Redskins in Week 15 that left the Giants with a 7-7 record and facing a second consecutive season missing the playoffs. Among the text messages he sent Rolle was the following, as related by Garafolo:
"Know that God has US here for a reason & sometimes a season. You may get that chance to leave in the end but WE must finish this season the right way, working unto God & not man!"
According to Merritt, trouble arose when he critiqued Rolle's technique after New York's win over Arizona, and the pot continued to boil over as the Giants struggled to find their way defensively. The moment of nirvana, according to Rolle, was a chat he had with Fewell.
"He said, 'Trel, you have to think about it this way: You and Deon (Grant) are tight, right?' I said, 'Yeah,'" Rolle recalled. "He said, 'Y'all are like brothers. How many more opportunities do you think he's going to get to actually reach a Super Bowl?' And when I thought about that, it actually brought tears to my eyes.
"From that point on, I never saw the game about me. I never saw the game about anything having to deal with me. I saw the game about my teammates, I saw the game about Coach (Tom) Coughlin and I saw the game most of all about Deon Grant."
Rolle finished the 2011 regular season with 96 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and a forced fumble. He had eight tackles and a pick in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys, and leads the team with 21 tackles in the postseason.