The Giants defense have a few men down for the time being, but as their mantra goes, “next man up.”
Defensive end Justin Tuck, who had been dealing with his own back malady, said even though bookend Jason Pierre-Paul (back) is likely out until at least Week 1, and safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) could miss a significant portion of training camp, now is the time for lesser-known players to seize the opportunities of more playing time.
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“You have to be prepared, although you hope it won’t be true [that star players will miss significant time], but we have guys who are ready to step up,” Tuck said. “Losing Rolle is a huge setback for us but it also gives opportunity for guys like [safeties] Tyler Sash and [Ryan] Mundy. And it also puts a bigger role on [safety] Stevie Brown’s leadership. We have guys that can fill in for Antrel. Now, there’s no other Antrel on this football team, but we still have guys to get the job done.”
Tuck also expounded on a defensive end rotation that has been without Pierre-Paul all spring and summer to date.
“Even with JPP [missing], the same thing goes as it puts more pressure on myself, Kiwi [Mathias Kiwanuka], Cullen Jenkins — all of us up front — to hold the fort until we can get our stud back,” Tuck said. “It’s something you just have to be prepared for and in hindsight you hope they have speedy recoveries and get back quickly.”
Rolle met with the media prior to practice, one day after being carted off the field with a sprained ankle, and agreed with Tuck in saying Big Blue has more than enough talent to “hold it down” while he’s away.
“I hate even missing practice and not be out there with my brothers. It’s hard for me to accept that, so I’m still doing pushups and leg raises, because I may not be able to run right now but I can still do other things,” said Rolle. “You still have to train your mind. The first thing I did when I got back home [Monday night] was I got my iPad and I watched practice, just to see how the guys looked, seeing if they’re going through the calls, formations and reads right.”
Rolle admitted that it’s been a rough 24 hours, simply because he couldn’t suit up for Tuesday’s session. Rolle wore a walking boot Tuesday, but said the injury was not a high ankle sprain. He got his fix in earlier in the morning when he was sitting in the defensive backs’ meeting room and giving pointers to his replacements about what he saw on film.
“He’s one of the building blocks, a brick. He’s always there because he’s tough. He’s the mortar that seals us and his presence is always valuable to us,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, adding any time a defense is missing playmakers like Rolle and Pierre-Paul it not only tests the reserves, but the coaching staff as well. “When you take those two players out, you’re talking about two playmakers that any team in the National Football League would love to have. ... But I think as a unit we’re working hard and we’re striving to be a better unit. I like our approach and our attitude and I like the way our players are working, so we’ll keep making strides.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Rolle is one of the toughest guys on the field, according to multiple teammates, so when he went down – and stayed down – everyone knew something was wrong:
“If couldn’t get up and walk on my own then you know it’s pretty bad. But it feels 10 times better today and I’m doing all the treatments to push myself back as soon as possible,” said Rolle. “There’s no timetable, but I hate injuries and hate talking about it, so I’ll try to get back as soon as possible and do whatever it takes to not make [missing the season opener] a possibility, even if that means going through treatment two, three times a day.”
»Fewell said he’s liked what he’s seen from cornerback Terrell Thomas, who’s trying to work his way back from his third ACL injury.
“Yesterday, he received about 50 percent of the reps that we were wanting to give him, [and] I thought he responded extremely well,” said Fewell. “He showed burst [and] the ability to come out of a break when he was covering in man coverage. ... We’re going to take it day by day with him. We’re going to bring him along as the trainers and as Terrell speaks to us about how he feels on a daily basis. ... But it was exciting to see him back in action.”
Fewell, however, wouldn’t give a timetable on Thomas’s actual game availability, particularly Sunday night’s affair against the Colts, deferring to head coach Tom Coughlin as having the ultimate decision.
»Giants reserve defensive linemen Demontre Moore and Adrian Tracy have been embroiled in a battle, just the way Fewell wants, as the coach said competition will improve everyone.
“It’s a healthy competition. Damontre is a young man that loves to play football. He’s got a lot of football in him, but in the same sense, as a rookie, he’s making a lot of mistakes right now — things that can hurt us,” said Fewell. “But he plays so hard. … Adrian Tracy is much improved. I think he’s going to contribute to our football team. We’re going to be a better defense if he continues to get better and if that competition continues to thrive, we’ll be better at the ends and in our pass rush.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for updates from training camp.