Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was asked if he is worried about teammate Eli Apple.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he said.
Then he paused and thought about the question again.
This would seem to be one of those times.
Last year’s first-round pick has missed four straight games because of a lack of practice reps. During Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, he was tweeting while the rest of his teammates were losing. Those actions, against NFL rules, resulted in a conversation with interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
“I was disappointed,” Spagnuolo said. “I told him I was disappointed. We’ll decide exactly what we’ll do with it, but it was disappointing. He apologized and we’ll move on.”
That one of those in-game posts was a retweet of a highlight of Cowboys running back Rod Smith (a former Ohio State teammate of Apple’s) scoring on an 81-yard catch-and-run and then celebrating raised a few eyebrows.
“That’s a tough one,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Spagnuolo said he was not aware of the content of the tweets.
The latest incident caps what has been a tumultuous month for Apple, who has not played in a game since the Nov. 12 contest in San Francisco in which his effort on some plays was brought into question and displayed during a harsh video session in front of the entire team. According to a report, he threatened to leave the building over the treatment, but Apple has denied that.
He missed the games in Weeks 11 and 12 because he was excused from practices to attend to a family medical issue, had a hip injury spring up right before he was ruled inactive for Week 13, and said he was feeling “fine” before not playing on Sunday.
“I said: ‘Look, we need to get you going, everybody wants you here helping us out, but this wasn’t the week to do it,’ ” Spagnuolo said of telling Apple he wouldn’t play against the Cowboys. “He didn’t get enough reps during the week. He did get some on Friday. I just didn’t think it was enough to have him ready to do the things we were going to do in the defensive game plan, and he understood that. The goal there as we shook hands and hugged was let’s get you up and running next week.”
All of which leads to what feels like a crossroads in Apple’s brief tenure with the Giants. It’s something Rodgers-Cromartie said he has seen a number of times and even lived through.
“Being a young guy, it’s kind of hard to deal with those things if you don’t have somebody that you can lean on in the locker room,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “That’s why I always try to talk to him and just let him know I’ve been there where you’ve been, trust me. He’s seen me go about my way and I try to tell him that from the standpoint of doing things the wrong way and I don’t want to see him go down that path. So I always try to stay on him.”
Does it sink in?
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “I can say he comes in here with the right mindset as far as coming in every day. He puts his stuff on, he goes out there and practices and he does what is asked of him. So I think for the most part, he gets it.”
There’s that other part, though. There’s that “sometimes.”
Rodgers-Cromartie acknowledged that talented players often need a fresh start with a new team, but he’s cautioned Apple about that.
“Coming from a guy that’s been on multiple teams, you don’t want to try to go to different teams, start over again, try to prove yourself again,” he said. “If you get drafted somewhere, you really want to stay there. They truly have your best interest. If you go somewhere else, you get lost in the shuffle and all kinds of stuff.”
Rodgers-Cromartie seemed to come through his maturity issues and last for a decade in the NFL, even if it has been with four different teams. Apple, he said, has the talent to do the same thing. Not everyone does.
Asked about the percentage of young players who rebound from off years to fulfill their potential, Rodgers-Cromartie said: “It ain’t high, I can tell you that much, but it’s possible. I think it all depends on that person and how much they’re willing to take whatever is going to come at them and use it to better themselves. It always depends on that man.”
“He’s struggling,” Spagnuolo said of Apple’s personal matters. “Sometimes it takes a little while to recover from that. I’m not saying that that’s an excuse, but he’s got to step up, show his teammates, his coaches, that he’s ready. I believe he wants to and is going to do that. We just need to see him do it.”