Antrel Rolle: Giants need to loosen up

Updated: January 18, 2011, 11:19 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

When Antrel Rolle watches the New York Jets, he sees a team "going to war" for its brash head coach.

And the outspoken safety wonders how good the New York Giants would be if their coach, Tom Coughlin, was more like the Jets' Rex Ryan.

During an interview with Miami radio station WQAM on Monday, Rolle reiterated that while he likes Coughlin as a person, he would like to see him loosen up.

"On a personal level, honestly, [Coughlin is] one of the best guys to be around," Rolle told WQAM. "Very caring. Honest guy. Very straightforward."

But Rolle was then asked about Coughlin as a head coach.

"Honestly, that's where the problem comes in with me, as a coach," Rolle said. "Since I've been playing the game since the age of 6, to me it's never been about the money, it's never been about anything more than winning and having fun."

When asked if Rolle is having fun playing for Coughlin, the safety answered, "Honestly, I'm not having the fun."

In his first season with the Giants, Rolle questioned the leadership on the team and whether the atmosphere was too controlled after the Giants were routed by the Colts in Week 2.

Rolle sat down with Coughlin and expressed his concerns. He also talked to defensive captain Justin Tuck and, after starting 1-2, the Giants won five straight games.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireAntrel Rolle told a Miami radio station that Tom Coughlin was too "uptight."

Rolle may want to have another heart-to-heart with Coughlin since the two will continue to have to work together. Ownership announced at the end of the season that Coughlin will return.

"As a person I don't have any problem with Coach Coughlin," Rolle said. "We have a great relationship. When you're talking about the coaching side of things, do I feel like things are a little too uptight? Yeah, I do.

"I feel like if he just loosened up just a little bit, still run the ship the way you want to run it, still run the program the way you want to run it but let us have a little fun ... because at the end of the day that's what it's all about.

"And people like to talk about Rex Ryan and this that and the other. That team is going to war for him," Rolle added.

Teammate and fellow safety Kenny Phillips was with Rolle during the interview. Phillips mentioned he doesn't truly know Coughlin all that well.

"Honestly, I don't know," said Phillips, who, like Rolle, starred at the University of Miami. "I am still trying to figure it out. I am going into my fourth year and I am still trying to feel him out. All I know is he's a straight guy, sometimes he is kind of loose. He is sort of like a general. That is basically the way he runs his football team."

When Ryan came up later in the interview, Phillips said the Jets coach looks like a fun coach to play for.

"I would love to play for a guy like Rex," Phillips said. "He goes to bat for his players. He'll take the blame, he allows you to be you. He's not asking you to hide. If you're a guy that likes to talk, go out and talk, long as you back it up. Like [Antrel] said, his guys are playing for him and I'd love to be a part of that."

One of the major reasons why ownership said it was bringing Coughlin back was because the players were still playing hard for the 64-year-old coach.

Several players, including Rolle, defended Coughlin in the final weeks of the season after the Giants suffered a collapse against the Philadelphia Eagles before being trounced in Green Bay with a playoff berth at stake.

The Giants were pretty much eight minutes away from making the playoffs and potentially winning the NFC East when they led the Eagles 31-10.

On Tuesday, Phillips clarified his comments and made it very clear that the two safeties were not taking any shots at Coughlin and that they did not want to give the impression that they would rather play for the Jets and Ryan.

"Well first I want to clear some things up: I do not want to play for the Jets, I do not want to play for Rex Ryan," Phillips said on ESPN's "SportsCenter." "I was drafted by the Giants, they stuck with me through my injury and I am very happy with this organization. There were some comments made last night during the interview that were obviously taken the wrong way.

"The only thing that I was trying to get across, and not only me, Antrel Rolle, was we were trying to give the Jets some praise," Phillips continued. "The intention was not to take shots at Tom Coughlin. The [comments] were maybe taken the wrong way with our answers. But we were not trying to take shots. Antrel and I are very happy to be a part of this Giants organization. We didn't get up there and try to compare the Giants' organization to the Jets' organization."

Phillips said he has a great relationship with his head coach just as Rolle, his good friend and teammate, said.

"I have a great relationship with him," said Phillips, who was drafted in the first round in 2008 by the Giants. "He's a guy that you can go up there, you are having a problem, you can sit down and talk to him and he's a very caring guy."

No matter who was to blame for their finish, the Giants are sitting home for a second straight year watching the Jets sweep New York off its feet with another deep postseason run.

Rolle said he would like to see the Jets win it all but when asked to compare the Jets to the Giants, the safety said he thinks the only difference is chemistry.

"If you match us up against the Jets, do I think they are the better team? No, I don't think so at all," Rolle said. "But when it comes to their chemistry, I think their chemistry might be better than ours. I think they have a lot more fun than we have.

"At the end of the day, yeah, we're professional athletes," Rolle continued. "Yeah, we get paid a lot of money to do what we do but we're all human. No one is a robot at this level. We do have feelings, we do all have the same kind of familiarity as far as character, and we like to have fun."

Rolle and Phillips did not place blame on Coughlin for the Giants' failure to make the playoffs after finishing 10-6. In fact, Rolle admitted he missed some plays while trying to adjust to a new role under Perry Fewell's defensive system.

But Rolle looks at what Ryan is doing and wonders what it might be like under a more carefree Coughlin.

"I love New York," Rolle said. "I don't think I could have picked a better place to play. I love the atmosphere, I love the organization. I like the coach. I understand what he is trying to do. But he has to understand it is 2011. Things have changed.

"As a coach he does a lot of great things, he does a lot of things the right way, things the way they need to be done. But honestly, he has to understand on his team we have a great team, we don't have a problematic team, we don't have guys with discipline problems. We're going to pretty much handle ourselves outside of football.

"When it comes to football we're going to take care of our business on the field. Just let us have a little fun a little bit, man. That's it. That's it."

Phillips said he is not worried about any fallout from the radio interview and that the Giants and Coughlin know how the safeties feel about the organization and their head coach.

"Coach Coughlin knows what kind of guys we are and so does the Giants' organization," Phillips said. "They know we wouldn't intentionally take shots at our head coach or try to throw the Giants' organization under the bus. We are not worried at all.

"Like I said, Antrel and I are very happy to be a part of the Giants' organization and we are happy with our head coach."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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