Antrel Rolle has never been shy about speaking up. He did just that after the New York Giants’ Week 15 loss to the Washington Redskins that threatened to derail his team’s playoff aspirations. After the disappointing loss to Washington just one week removed from a huge win over the Dallas Cowboys, Rolle tried to rally his teammates by telling them they needed to practice through nicks, bruises and whatever physical ailments they were dealing with, and that everyone had to get on the same page with the details and other myriad little things that go into executing on a consistent basis in the National Football League. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Giants haven’t lost since then.
New York won its final two games following the speech and have put together two inspiring performances during the NFL playoffs, beating Atlanta and Green Bay handily the past two weekends Now the Giants have the task of going to San Francisco to try and take down the San Francisco 49ers with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.
Antrel Rolle joined XTRA 910 in Phoenix with Bickley and MJ to discuss beating the defending champion Green Bay Packers in front of their home crowd last Sunday, making it tough for Green Bay’s receivers and Aaron Rodgers all game long, his message after the Week 15 loss to Washington, making the transition to living and playing in the Big Apple after previously being in the more remote and isolated Phoenix are, why this trip to the NFC Championship game feels different than the one he played in while with the Cardinals, the 49ers’ offense led by the steady and much-improved Alex Smith, and what he’s learned about Eli Manning as a quarterback and leader.
What did it feel like to go up to Green Bay and shock that crowd?:
“It was a remarkable feeling. We put a lot of hard work going into that game and preparing extremely well throughout the week and having electrifying practices. And all it did was carry over into the game.”
What did you guys do to their receivers where they had so much trouble catching the ball?:
“We try to pride ourselves on going out there and being the best group that we can be as a total team — offensively defensively and special teams — and I definitely think we had those guys rattled a little bit. But it took a lot of hard work. The Green Bay Packers are an outstanding team. … For us to go out there and do what we did, we definitely gave ourselves a pat on the back, but it doesn’t end there.”
When the team was 12 or 13 weeks in, you said the team needed to practice during the week. What were your thoughts when you said that?:
“When you’re trying to have a run to the postseason, it was just a simple message that we needed everyone all on deck, we needed everyone all in. In order to do that, you have to have the chemistry with the guy next to you. … It means everything for someone like myself to see someone next to me fighting in the trenches. It’s not so much about the physical aspect of it, it’s more of the mental aspect of it. When you get into the postseason, it’s mental.”
What’s been the key to transitioning to a big city in New York successfully?:
“I’m just a player. I’m a player at heart, and that doesn’t mean only on the field, that means off the field. I recognize where I see things … I’m going to do the best I can to check it and make sure I am on the same page as my teammates, I am giving my all. … I just call it like I see it. I try not to say too much around here, but when I do speak, it is heard. … I go out there and say what I say and feel what I feel and I think my team definitely knows where I’m coming from but it’s for the betterment of the team.”
Do you have the same feeling going into this NFC title game as the one you went to with Arizona?:
“I didn’t have the same feeling at all. When I was with the Cardinals, I was just a young guy enjoying the ride. It was a very exciting ride, a roller-coaster season and we started to peak at the end just as we’re doing now … but I really didn’t understand what hard work was all about. I really didn’t understand what adversity was all about.”
What do you see from the 49ers and Alex Smith?:
“They’re not the same team at all [as when I was in Arizona], not even close. They’re a very relentless team. They play with a lot of passion, a lot of heart. More importantly, they’re a very, very physical unit. They’ve made extreme strides. Jim Harbaugh has definitely helped gather this team and gave them a mindset that they’re not backing down from. … As far as Alex Smith, he’s confident. He’s extremely confident in his approach as well as he should be.”
What have you learned about Eli Manning that you maybe didn’t know before joining the Giants?:
“Something that I realized being a teammate as opposed to being an opponent of Eli Manning, I never knew how mentally tough he is. This guy, man, he has that look on his face sometimes and it makes some people question him. That’s just a look. He’s extremely confident. He’s that dude. He’s the one that I consider that dude.”