EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — When a team misses the playoffs for three straight seasons, coaches and players attract critics.
Longtime coach Tom Coughlin has been under the microscope for weeks with the New York Giants (5-9) out of contention, and now some of his best players are being criticized.
Safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle is the latest. The 10-year veteran is in the final year of a five-year contract that is paying him a $7 million base salary, and his play has not been as good as a year ago when he led the team in tackles (106) and interceptions (6).
While many wonder whether the 32-year-old should be re-signed, Rolle has no doubts that he can still help the Giants.
"Is this my best season? No, it is not my best season," Rolle said Wednesday. "Am I playing ball? Yes, I am definitely playing ball. I am not giving up touchdowns; I am not giving up huge plays. I am playing the way I am supposed to be playing. I am playing multiple roles.
Rolle said he just does his assignments without worrying too much about what spectators say.
Rolle has been a force in the Giants' secondary since joining the team as a free agent in 2010. He had no less than 96 tackles in his first four seasons and many times played out of position because they defense didn't have a nickel on third downs, so he moved into the box.
With two games left in the season, Rolle has 74 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defended. The last couple of weeks though, he seemingly has been out of position for several plays, although that's been the norm for the defense in this season marked by injuries.
Rolle said what fans see on the field does not always reflect what a player is being asked to do. If someone misses an assignment, the blame might be thrust on someone who was closest to the play.
"I know what kind of player I am," Rolle said. "I know what kind of player I have always been. I have always been a guy who makes my own way no matter what it is. You doubt me? I love when you doubt me. I am going to go out there and kill you the next time around."
Rolle did seem to make three bad plays against Washington. He dropped an interception late in the first half on a second and goal play. It didn't hurt though because Robert Griffin III lost a fumble out of the end zone, ending the half.
The former Miami product also missed a tackle on a short third-quarter pass, which Andre Roberts turned into a 61-yard catch and run. Later in the same series, he was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty that led to a field goal.
When the blame is his, he accepts it.
"Sometimes you have to live with what you put out there on the field, you take what they give you," he said. "Like I said, as far as my play, last year I would say was my better year being here with the Giants, this year has been a good year for me."
NOTES: LB Jameel McClain (knee) and RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. QB Eli Manning was happy not being on the injury report this week. He joked he probably should not have been on it last week with a back issue.
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