Antrel Rolle won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, but it was also a grueling season for him in which he battled physical troubles, his own emotions, and eventually called out the entire team when they were on the brink of missing the playoffs. The safety sat with Newsday's Tom Rock for a Q&A session in which he reflected on the season, its difficulties and its glories.
I saw you on the field after the Super Bowl and you were completely exhausted. It looked like you didn't even really comprehend what was going on at the time. How long did it take it to sink in?
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So if the game had gone into overtime . . . ?
"If that game had gone into overtime, I was going to pull it together. I had it in me for that game. But I didn't have another game in me. That's for certain. I think my parents saw it, I think my brothers and sisters saw it. After the game, I just went back to the room and I just crashed. It was a sigh of relief. I didn't go to any party, I didn't celebrate after. I was more mentally exhausted than physically exhausted. My shoulders were banged up but more important than anything, there was a lot on my plate playing the multiple positions, playing the nickel, playing the bison (the name of a Giants subpackage), playing safety as well as doing multiple thinking for my teammates, for myself and for the coaches . . . I kind of distanced myself from everyone going into the playoffs. The only people I really spoke to was my family. That was something I'd never ever done while playing football was distance myself from everyone. Not my teammates, but outside friends or whatever. I felt like this was something that I needed to give my all and I didn't have room for anything else in my life at that time. I think it was definitely worth the sacrifice."
You played with a lot of pain last year, two torn rotator cuffs in your shoulders. How hard was that?
"It was hard but it wasn't as hard as most people may think. I'm a guy who has always fought through injury, I've always fought through tough times, through battles no matter what it's been. If God allowed me to run, I was playing. That's just the way I approach the game. If I'm allowed to run, I'm going to go out there and do the best I can for my teammates. I know that they were depending on me and I had a huge role to play last year and I just couldn't see myself sitting out no matter how injured I was."
Did you want out last year? Was there a low point when you wanted to leave the Giants?
There were articles written that you did.
"I don't even know where those stories came from but I've never ever wanted out of this organization. I think this organization is a class-act organization. I think it's a first-class organization. There were times where I wanted to play the position, the safety position. Yeah, there were times where I was unhappy about maybe how I was being played and things of that nature. But you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes me having to play the nickel spot, obviously they put me in that spot because they knew I could do it. You have to take that on your shoulders and put all the selfishness aside and do what's best for the team. That was my approach toward the end of the season. It took me a while to get there. I can admit that. But when I got there, we were all in."
That was a big turning point for the team, when you seemed to commit yourself to that role. Did you see that as a turning point at the time?
"Absolutely. I think I definitely felt it at the time. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I always say that I'm going to be as good as I want to be. I think at that point and time, right after the Washington game, I made a choice that I'm just going to go out here and be the best nickel I can be, go out here and be physical and disrupt receivers and just play within the defense and let's see the outcome."
You get criticized sometimes for being too outspoken, but then you spoke out after that Redskins game (a loss that left the Giants at 7-7). It seemed like when you were outspoken there, it actually helped and changed the mood and the attitude of this team.
"I think it's definitely a fine line. You never want to cause any problems. That's something I've never done, I've never caused any problems within this organization or with my teammates. They'll be the first ones to tell you that. By me saying what I said, it was one of those moments where I thought: 'Damn, Antrel, do you say this? Do you know what it's going to cause? Or do you keep your mouth closed and you know what that's going to cause?' I chose to just let it weigh on my shoulders and deal with whatever was going to come my way but I just knew that once we got on board and we had everyone on deck that the outcome was going to be phenomenal. I don't have a crystal ball or anything but I just know the talent of this team and I know how hard we worked to get to where we were. I'm just grateful that my teammates backed me up. My teammates backed me up with their play, with their words, with their actions. For us to go out there and win it as a team, it couldn't have been more gratifying than that."
Do you feel you're misunderstood by the fans and public?
"I really don't think I'm misunderstood. I think the way people portray things, I think they lead people to misunderstand me. If anyone ever listens to what I say, I never ever say anything for myself, I never ever say anything about my own selfish goals or selfish reasons. Everything is always for the betterment of the team. I realize that maybe I was a little different breed coming here and me speaking out and saying certain things may have opened peoples' eyes, but I never said anything other than the truth. I never said anything to intentionally hurt anyone or have anyone look at me with an odd eye. I've always said things in favor of our team, whether good or bad. I've always been a guy that takes criticism. I've always been a guy who loves for people to critique me, whether it's going to hurt my feelings or it's going to lift me up. I just always wanted the right info. Just give me what I need to hear as opposed to what I want to hear. That's just the way I am. I know it may not all seem pretty at first but at the end of the day, it's going to have a pretty outcome."