In the quiet moments when he is away from his teammates and the cacophony of the locker room or the intensity of game day, Antrel Rolle will think about what the future might hold. About what it might be like if circumstances lead to his departure from the team and the players and coaches he has grown to love after nearly five seasons as a Giant.
"This is a contract year, so you don't know what the future holds,'' Rolle said as he took a break from preparations for Sunday night's home game against the Cowboys -- perhaps his last in a Giants uniform against the NFC East rival. "Does it cross my mind at times? Absolutely. When I'm out there on the field, I don't think about any of it. I just try to go out there and play ball and be the guy I know how to be and be accountable to my teammates. But yeah, I think about it.''
Rolle has been the one constant on the Giants' defense since he signed a five-year, $37- million contract, the richest deal ever given to a safety at the time. He has never missed a game in his time here and he has a Super Bowl ring from the 2011 season. But in the ever-changing world that is an NFL roster, and with the Giants evolving toward a younger team, Rolle knows he might be playing his final six games in a Giants uniform.
He'd love to stay, make no mistake. He has enjoyed every day of his Giants career, even if this year will end without a postseason berth for the third straight season. But he will understand if it doesn't work out down the road as the Giants trend toward a younger roster and face the possibility of a coaching change at season's end.
"Staying here would definitely be ideal,'' said Rolle, who turns 32 on Dec. 16. "I feel like there's a lot of things that I would like to get accomplished with a new set of [teammates]. I feel like there's a lot more to get done. Unfortunately, if you don't have the opportunity to stay, you move on.''
No regrets if it happens.
"If I'm back next year, that'll be great. If I'm not back, then I've had a tremendous time here,'' he said. "I wouldn't take anything back. I've loved every bit of it. What that time comes, then I'll handle it. Right now, I'm just trying to go out there and get a win at all costs. That's my only focus.''
The Giants haven't won since Oct. 5, when they beat the Falcons, 30-20, at MetLife Stadium. Seven interminable weeks, and the dissipation of any realistic chance of making the playoffs. After five straight losses, the Giants will be mathematically eliminated with a loss to the Cowboys. But even if they pull off the upset, the chances of a miracle run to the postseason are . . . ah, don't even think about it.
Regardless of the circumstances, Rolle refuses to change his approach. He takes each game as if it means everything. That's the way it's always been for the high-energy safety, now the unquestioned leader of the Giants' defense now that Justin Tuck is in Oakland and fellow defensive captain Jon Beason is out for the season after foot surgery.
"This is a hard year, because you have so many young guys on the team and we put ourselves in a hole early,'' Rolle said. "All I try to do is go out there, attack the game plan and be the best player I can be.''
As poor as the record has been in this train wreck of a losing streak, Rolle still believes in what the Giants are doing. He stands by embattled coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese's roster. In fact, he thinks the Giants are a series of small mistakes away from being a playoff team.
"I believe in the talent level of these guys,'' he said. "It's just been a couple of things here and there. We can all improve on stuff, including myself. It's little things that turn into big things for us and cause us to lose games. But it's really so minor, it's so fixable, but it might take a little time until everyone is on the same page.
"There's different people in the lineup every single week, so it's been hard to get in that rhythm, get in that groove. We're human, so sometimes it's tough. You don't know how the players are going to respond to things or how he's going to play this or that technique. The only thing we can do is go out there and play.''
As for the Giants' coaching situation, Rolle remains firmly behind Coughlin.
"He's our guy,'' Rolle said. "We all understand coach Coughlin. We've been around him a long time, especially myself. We understand his message. His main thing is to stay together, go out there and fight and just try to get a win, because we're better than what we've shown. We just haven't been a good team on a consistent basis.''
The future remains uncertain for Rolle and Coughlin, and one or both might be gone at season's end. Rolle hopes he and his coach get another shot in 2015.
"I think we've got a lot left to do here,'' Rolle said. "If this is it, then so be it. But I'm going to play hard to the end, no matter what. Just got to go out there and keep fighting.''
The next match is Sunday night against the Cowboys. For one veteran safety, it might be the last NFC East showdown between the teams.
"Hopefully I'm back,'' he said. "If not, I've loved every minute of it.''