Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck wore a fire helmet symbolic...

Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck wore a fire helmet symbolic of his leadership during their first game. But will he or someone else step up to stop the negativity after the Giants' loss to the Colts? (Sept. 21, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

Justin Tuck came running out of the tunnel wearing a blue firefighter's helmet on opening day. He gathered teammates in a corner of the end zone and gave a fiery speech. The Giants won and one of the reasons was Tuck, who in his first year as captain is wearing a patch on the shoulder of his jersey.

That patch has one gold star on it. Yes, the picture and the badge seemed to be saying there is a new sheriff in town.

But a week after that performance against the Panthers, lawlessness returned. The Giants were trampled by the Colts on Sunday night and gone was the optimism, the direction. Back came the lapses where lawmen once patrolled the streets.

It's an easy comparison to make. The Giants' loss to the Colts on Sunday night was just a continuation of the 2009 season. Sloppy mistakes, sluggish play, sour result. Between guys chucking helmets and missing tackles and blowing coverages and whiffing on blocks, there were an awful lot of similarities.

It's now up to the leaders of the Giants to make sure the similarities stop . . . in the name of the law.

That will be the charge for Tuck and others who are expected to do the heavy leadership lifting this season. The easy part, the rah-rah speeches, the animated antics, they're all over. Being a leader and wearing a special hat and a special patch on gamedays, those are just perks. The real work begins now.

"After a game in which you lose and don't play particularly well," Tom Coughlin said Monday, "obviously you're looking for strong people to get you in the right direction."

Whether the Colts loss sends the team spiraling has yet to be determined. This week will do a lot to determine it.

So far, it hasn't been a terrific start. Brandon Jacobs has voiced - and expressed through his helmet-flinging - the mounting frustration he is feeling about how he is being used in the offense. The idea of requesting a trade has apparently at least crossed his mind, if not his lips.

And Antrel Rolle, one of the players the Giants brought in during the offseason to fill the leadership void, took to the airwaves Tuesday to criticize everything from the team's travel itinerary to its defensive game plan for the Colts. He also complained about the organization being too controlling of the players.

Those are two players the Giants were counting on to set a tone for the season. After one loss, they're already griping.

Rolle did make the point, though, that he was disappointed by what happened during the Colts game . . . and not all of it on the field.

"I saw some things that I wasn't too fond of in that locker room," he said in his weekly paid appearance on WFAN. "I felt like there was no one who stepped up to the plate when the opportunity presented itself.

"I don't take anything away from any player," he added. "I love my teammates . . . but I felt like in a situation like that something should have been done to a higher extent."

Who will step up? Will it be Tuck? He has the badge - perhaps reluctantly - and also the quiet leadership-by-example thing going on. That might work in a Gary Cooper western, but in an NFL locker room there needs to be more of a frantic tone.

Will it be Rolle? He certainly could be trying to take the job with his public speech, in which his intentions were likely not to call for the pitchforks and torches. But he'll have to show that he knows the difference between being an agitator - calling players and coaches and problems out on the radio - and being a reformer who can change those issues in question.

Maybe it will be someone else. Keith Bulluck. Michael Boley. Osi Umenyiora. Mathias Kiwanuka. All candidates.

Whomever it is had better hurry up, though. The 2010 season is only two weeks old, and already the shadows of 2009 are starting to creep in.