Now, it's over.
It wasn't when the Giants expressed minimal interest (financially, anyway) in retaining Antrel Rolle as a free agent. Nor was it when he signed a three-year contract with the Bears on Wednesday night. No, the true end of the Antrel Rolle era in New York came Friday when he said his farewells in one final appearance on "The Joe and Evan Show" on WFAN.
Radio Rolle has left the building.
But not before bringing the kind of honest, insightful and passionate dialogue that marked his weekly appearances on the program, sometimes even overshadowing his impact on the field for the Giants. His finale included everything that we've become accustomed to hearing from him.
There was the bravado. "Antrel Rolle cannot be replaced in that defense," he said when asked how the Giants will go about filling his void. "An Antrel Rolle will never be replaced in that secondary."
There was the emotion. He said talking to his now former teammates the day after signing with the Bears "made a 32-year-old man cry" and he had to collect himself during the interview. "The hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life is leave the New York Giants."
There was reflection. Rolle cited the way the team managed to get through the 2013 season that started with six straight losses without splintering as the highlight of his tenure with the team, even topping the win in Super Bowl XLVI. "That," he said, "was a true testament of brotherhood and what it takes to be a Giant."
There even was some providence. Rolle said he prayed for guidance in free agency and was awakened in the middle of the night to an email from Orbitz, the travel website, offering discounted fares to Chicago.
As for the nuts and bolts, Rolle brought that, too. He said his decision came down to either Chicago or Washington, and that the Bears showed the most interest. He said he didn't hear from the Giants until late in the free-agency process, and their offer came just as he was about to sign with the Bears.
He said he realized his time with the Giants was over when he headed to free agency without an offer from the team, ending the period during which the Giants were the only team that could negotiate with him. "If I was a top, top priority," he said, "something could have been done."
He even spoke about two potential landing spots that would have driven Giants fans crazy, the Jets and Washington. He said the Jets were interested but admitted that it "would have been weird being in a Jets uniform."
As for the possibility of staying in the NFC East and facing the Giants twice a year with Washington, Rolle said that "could have been a little personal" and that he would have wanted to show his old team what they were missing.
He name-dropped a ton of Giants personnel, from safeties coach Dave Merritt and former defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to former Giants such as Carl Banks and Jesse Armstead. He said he came to appreciate his relationship with Tom Coughlin and said he intends to be on hand when "that old man" gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He also thanked the fans, with whom he did not always see eye to eye. Several times during his tenure in New York, he addressed their booing of him or the team, which set off minor firestorms. Ultimately, he said, he respected them.
"I can't tell you how much you all have meant to me," he said, noting that he has a Giants NY logo tattooed on his chest that "isn't going anywhere."
Rolle even gave the people what they wanted, reciting one of the phrases that he used over and over again on the air. Radio host Joe Benigno ended that interview by asking: Who's better than you, Antrel?
"At the end of the day," he said, "nobody."
If those seven words don't sum Rolle up, nothing will.