When Antrel Rolle blew out his 32 candles on Tuesday, there's a good chance his wish had something to do with coming back to the Giants after this season. It's a desire the veteran safety and free agent-to-be expressed in the locker room Wednesday.
"I want to be with JPP and [Odell] Beckham, and I can't wait to see [Victor] Cruz come back,'' said Rolle, who also mentioned teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. "These are my boys, these are my buddies . . . It would be great to stay here with these guys and build something. I feel like next year if, God willing, we keep everyone healthy we have a great chance, man. It's all going to start with attitude and jelling with the guys here. I feel like we have a great thing going right now.''
There has been plenty of optimism about the future as the Giants have trudged through the back end of their second straight losing season. Bright flashes from rookies such as Beckham, linebacker Devon Kennard and running back Andre Williams -- not to mention the ridiculous amount of experience they are receiving on the field -- seem to indicate that better times lie just ahead.
Rolle wants to be a part of that. He said he thinks he can play another three seasons. And he would like it to be with the Giants.
Whether that desire goes both ways remains to be seen. Rolle is a captain, a respected veteran, and he has guided this team through its most arduous two-season stretch since Tom Coughlin became coach more than a decade ago. His voice has been the one that has largely held the players together in the locker room, even if they were falling apart on the field.
But the Giants have a preference for parting ways with players too early rather than too late. They did it with Justin Tuck this past offseason and over the years have done it with everyone from Steve Smith to Osi Umenyiora. They put a value on a player and don't let sentimentality cloud their judgment.
"When you become a free agent it's always a 50-50 chance whether you come back or you don't, those are the only two options,'' Rolle said. "Would I like to be here? Absolutely. I feel like we can have a great thing going. But at the end of the day, that's not my call to make.''
In that regard, even Rolle admits that his production has wavered in 2014.
"Is this my best season? No, it's not my best season,'' he said. "Am I playing ball? Yes, I'm definitely playing ball. I'm not giving up touchdowns, I'm not giving up huge plays. I'm playing the way I'm supposed to be playing. I'm playing multiple roles. I just go out there and do what I can do.''
"He wants to be the best that he can be,'' Coughlin said of Rolle. "The other day he had some occasions where he didn't play that well, but it's not because he doesn't try hard and he's not into it. He works off the field as hard as anybody.''
And as far as the accumulating number of candles on his cake this week, they seem to have little impact on him.
"Right now I feel amazing,'' he said. "I've never worried about age. One thing about getting older, the games get slower.''
So, too, do the players. Rolle hopes his decline -- and departure -- doesn't happen until he can see the full ascension of the younger guys around him.