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Giants’ Rolle isn’t at a loss for words

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / January 31, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Antrel Rolle hasn’t always been like this, the type of player to whom media flock. He barely said a word when he played in Arizona, didn’t invite the scrutiny, the attention, the leadership role. That’s not the case anymore, not in New York.

As he said, “Whatever I feel at that moment I’m going to say.’’

He has. And yet, though Rolle said, “I’m not a fan of the media at all,’’ the media is surely a fan of him.

“With this team, I just felt like certain things needed to be said,’’ Rolle said. “I don’t come in with any premeditated thoughts because that’s not who I am. I just speak for the moment, I never speak out of anger. I only speak out of passion and concern for my team.’’

Prior to the Giants’ game against the Patriots in November, the 29-year-old safety said New York didn’t need to worry about its schedule, the schedule had to be worried about the Giants. He called Wes Welker human. He seemed more than confident.

He didn’t give quite the same sound bites yesterday, but he maintained that he’s just being himself when he opens his mouth, even when he’s surrounded by tape recorders and microphones.

It’s something that, he said, came from his parents; his mother is a high school counselor, his father a police chief. He watched them find success over the years, watched the hard work it took for them to get there.

“They always stood strong for what they believed,’’ said Rolle. “I guess it kind of trickled down to me. That’s the way I see things. A lot of times I take a lot of heat for a lot of things. I understand that.

“But at the same time I don’t care what the outsiders say. I only care about what’s going to come forth in our locker room with our guys. My teammates understand me, and those are the only people who need to understand me. They know that I’ve never been a problem, I’ll never be a problem, and everything I say is for the betterment of this team.’’

Rolle’s willingness to speak up seemed to spur the Giants to where they are now. After New York lost to the Redskins to fall to 7-7, the safety criticized teammates for not playing when nicked up, for not being committed enough.

The words had an effect. The next week the Giants beat the Jets in a must-win game. And New York hasn’t lost since, winning five straight to make it to the Super Bowl.

Rolle, a first-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2005, played in the Super Bowl three years ago, Arizona losing in the final moments. He signed with the Giants in 2010 on a five-year, $37 million deal, and had a team-leading 96 tackles and two interceptions this season.

Rolle said he’s not thinking about that last trip. He’s focused on the Patriots and on Sunday and on the Giants defense.

“Defensively I think we had our struggles this year,’’ Rolle said. “Right now, we have a [tough] mentality. That’s the way we look at it. That’s the way we want to keep it. We’re very confident in our approach. But, most of all, I think we’re very smart in our approach.’’

They’ll need to continue to be smart against the Patriots’ high-powered offense. But if there’s one thing that can be counted on, it’s that Rolle will stay confident in his abilities and in the abilities of the Giants’ defense. And that he might just be convinced to talk about it before week’s end.

For now, though, Rolle is staying away from controversy, away from anything that might incite the Patriots.

Rolle said that, outside of the locker room, outside of the media attention, he really doesn’t say all that much. He is a “chill, low-key guy.’’ And then something happens, something propels him to speak out.

“I’m just trying to go out there and be a player,’’ Rolle said. “If swagger is what it is, then that’s what it’ll be. I don’t approach every game the same. Sometimes I might be the most quietest guy in the locker room. Sometimes I might be the most animated in the locker room.

“I never know what I’m going to be. I just go out there and play it by ear, and be whoever I’m supposed to be on that given day.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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