Giants can't afford to lose Antrel Rolle

New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle was carted off the practice field Monday with a sprained right ankle, and the team isn't sure yet how much time he'll have to miss. It almost goes without saying that the Giants' secondary could ill afford to be without one of its starting safeties for regular-season games, but in the case of Rolle I think the potential trouble goes deeper than that.

With the chronically injured Kenny Phillips now in Philadelphia, the Giants are counting on Rolle to be the leader of the secondary this year. He's been a versatile veteran for them, willingly moving around the field to play some nickel cornerback two years ago when they had injuries and playing up in the box last year while Stevie Brown racked up interceptions in the post. And Rolle has been a unique but effective locker-room voice at some critical times. But his role is supposed to expand this year as he's now clearly the elder statesman of that secondary, and his experience and knowledge of so many facets of the Giants' defense keeps this from being as simple as just designating Ryan Mundy as the "next man up." Will Hill's four-game drug suspension also compounds things and leaves the Giants thinner at safety. There's been some talk about cornerback Terrell Thomas switching to safety, but the Giants first have to find out whether Thomas can play at all as he works his way back from a third major knee reconstruction.

So the Giants will hope for good news on Rolle's ankle. If he has to miss much preseason time, that will hurt the defense's development because he and Brown are learning to work off of each other and switch responsibilities the way Rolle and Phillips used to. But the Giants would happily trade in some preparation time if it means Rolle is healthy and ready to go for Week 1.