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Safety Antrel Rolle may have to play nickel

Posted Aug 2, 2012

After the injury to Terrell Thomas, Antrel Rolle will be the Giants' nickel for the foreseeable future



If Antrel Rolle could follow his perfect football plan, he would play only safety.

But obstacles inevitably arise as an NFL team prepares for a season and the Giants hit one when Terrell Thomas suffered an injury to his right ACL for the second year in a row. Thomas was expected to earn the starting spot at right cornerback, as well as be the team’s nickel corner. The team has not announced an update on Thomas’ condition, so for the foreseeable future, Rolle will again play in the slot, where he spent so much time in 2011.

“We’re going to get some changes,” Rolle said today. “We’re going to have to play with the cards that are dealt to us, and it’s something I’ve done before. I’m not a stranger to the nickel position. So, like I said, if I have to play it, then so be it.

“In this league, you have to have an open mind. A ballplayer is a ballplayer. It doesn’t matter what position you’re at. If I have to go down there and do it again, then so be it. Like I said, right now, my only focus is hearing the feedback from Terrell and hoping that everything is okay. Hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward.”

The good news for the Giants is that Rolle is one of their most productive defensive players wherever he lines up. Last year, he started every game and led the team with 96 regular season tackles (82 solo). He also had two interceptions.

“It’s a part of finding a groove,” he said. “You have to find a groove down in the nickel and you’re going to be faced with a lot of different things down there. As far as the run and the pass, the more shifty guys, and just understanding your position. Sometimes, I’ll have to go back and play safety, sometimes I have to play nickel. The mental part of it, I think I pretty much have down pat. So, it’s just knowing all of the different techniques and what’s going to be thrown your way.”

Rolle is confident playing slot receivers because he was an outstanding corner, both at the University of Miami and in his first three NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2005-07). In 2008, the Cards moved him to safety, where he was twice selected to the Pro Bowl (including his first season with the Giants in 2010). Last season five Giants cornerbacks, including Thomas, went on injured reserve, so Rolle was thrust into the nickel corner role. He’s seamlessly stepped back in during the Giants’ training camp practices at the University at Albany.

“Just throwing me in for the couple of days I’ve been there, there’s a lot of carry-over from last year,” Rolle said. “So, it’s a comfort zone, definitely a comfort zone. I think there’s going to be other guys competing for that spot. Hopefully, we can have some other guys we can throw in there, and I can get back at safety. It doesn’t matter if I’m at nickel, it doesn’t matter if I’m at safety. Whatever the team needs me to play, that’s what I’ll play to the best of my (ability).”

*Second-year linebacker Jacquian Williams expects to have a larger role in the defense this season. He has assumed many of the duties once executed by former safety Deon Grant.

“I feel comfortable,” Williams said. “It’s another opportunity and a blessing for me to go out and play that position. It’s something that I’m already familiar with.  It’s something I can get used to doing.”

Williams said he weighs 240 pounds, about 20-25 pounds heavier than he was as a rookie.

“It’s something that comes along with being a linebacker,” he said. “Nobody wants to play linebacker at 220.”


Game Rewind: New York Giants