Antrel Rolle hoping he's not needed to play nickel back

Giants safety Antrel Rolle talks to reporters at Giants safety Antrel Rolle talks to reporters at Giants mini camp. (Aug. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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ALBANY -- Rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley, selected in the third round of the draft by the Giants, was lined up with the second team in Thursday's practice, covering receiver Brandon Collins in the slot. Hosley was the nickel back, the third corner on the field, and he intercepted David Carr's pass intended for Collins.

It was a big play for the rookie.

It may have been an even bigger play for Antrel Rolle.

With Terrell Thomas sidelined with an ACL injury and no definitive timeline or guarantee of his return, safety Rolle has been asked to play the nickel. Again.

It's a position he hoped to avoid this season. Rolle came into camp excited about the opportunity to roam freely in the secondary and be more of a ballhawk as a safety. But with Thomas out, Rolle will be the team's third cornerback in sub package situations unless someone else can show he can handle the job just as well. Enter Hosley.

It's not often that a veteran roots for a younger player to take his job. In this case, though, Rolle wouldn't mind ceding it to Hosley . . . or anyone else.

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"I think there's going to be other guys competing for that spot," Rolle said Thursday. "Hopefully, we can have some other guys we can throw in there; I can get back at safety."

Last year, because of injuries in the secondary, Rolle had to switch to nickel back on many plays. It took some time for him to fully embrace that job, but when he did, it coincided with the Giants' six-game run to the Super Bowl title.

Rolle was drafted as a cornerback by the Cardinals and has last season's experience at the position, so this transition shouldn't be too difficult. Although he made it clear he's not thrilled to have this responsibility, he showed no signs that he would fight it.

"In this league, you have to have an open mind," he said. "A ballplayer is a ballplayer. It doesn't matter what position you're at. If I have to go down there and do it again, then so be it."

Tom Coughlin said others will be considered for the position. Dante Hughes played nickel for the Chargers, and coaches have said linebackers Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers have the athleticism to pull it off.

Thomas, meanwhile, remains in a holding pattern with his knee. He is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday for a third opinion. Giants doctors saw an injury to his ACL in an MRI, and Thomas went to California to visit Arthur Ting, the surgeon who performed his two previous ACL reconstructions.

ESPN reported that some doctors believe Thomas could return and play this season, information that seems to conflict with Coughlin's assertion Wednesday that he had "enough information . . . to counter some of that hope."

"I don't know what to believe until we get it all back," Coughlin said Thursday of the opinions and tests from the doctors. "At one point there was a possibility of a scope to look at it, to see what the damage was. They've done the MRIs and all of that stuff, but I think he's collecting different opinions."

Until then, Coughlin and the Giants will audition nickel backs, collecting their own opinions on those players. "We'll use the different combinations of people and we'll check all these young guys out," he said. "Whoever we feel like is the best person to give us the balance we want between the pressures and man coverage aspect of it, we'll go that way. It'll take a while."

But if it means he gets to move back to safety, for Rolle, it's probably worth the wait.

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