New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been in second year cornerback Eli Apple’s shoes: a young, talented cornerback who has been his own worst enemy.
That’s why Rodgers-Cromartie, a widely respected leader in the Giants locker room, is hoping to take Apple under his wing and share with him his experiences that led to his bouncing around the league before he finally found a home with the Giants.
Rodgers-Cromartie, whose locker is near Apple’s agreed that Apple’s second season hasn’t been smooth sailing.
“I would say it’s been tough, man, on and off the field,” Rodgers-Cromartie said Monday. “Being a young guy, it’s kind of hard to deal with those things if you don’t have somebody that you can lean on in the locker room, that’s why I always try to talk to him and just let him know I’ve been there where you’ve been, trust me.
“He’s seen me go about my way and I try to tell him that from the standpoint of doing things the wrong way and I don’t want to see him go down that path. So I always try to stay on him.”
Rodgers-Cromartie would know. Despite his talent, the 31-year old cornerback is on his fourth NFL team, something he strongly hinted was a result of his past poor attitude.
As he matured, Rodgers-Cromartie said he finally “got it” and is now trying to help Apple and the rest of the players in need of an experienced voice for that matter, “get it.”
“Being the older man, trying to get to the younger guys and tell them, man, you might not be fortunate enough to do it my way,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
“I was fortunate that I had enough on film for a guy to take a chance on me. But for the most part, it don’t always work like that. You don’t really get that second chance like that. I learned through a hard experience and I don’t want nobody to go through that.”
Apple has drawn the ire of the Giants on multiple occasions this season. Earlier in the year, he was benched for three series for reportedly lashing out verbally at the coaches.; The benching prompted Apple to take issue about having been singled out, and he raised a question about the team’s whole culture being behind the Giants struggles.
As the year went on, Apple was fined by then head coach Ben McAdoo for returning a day late to the team after the bye week. According to the New York Post, Apple also reportedly threatened to leave the facility after taking issue with having two of his plays put on display for the entire team to critique during McAdoo’s “brutally honest” team meeting a few weeks back, a report he denied.
Apple has been inactive for the last four games. The first two were directly related to his missing practice time to attend to his mother during her brain surgery followed by the fact the Giants had a short work week to get ready for the Thanksgiving night game at Washington.
These last two games, Apple has been scratched supposedly due to hip and back injuries, but when asked by a fan on Twitter why he wasn’t playing, Apple replied “I’m too healthy.”
Apple again ruffled the feathers of the team by tweeting after the Giants lost to the Cowboys, “Gotta smile in times of adversity.”
Apple also retweeted a clip posted by an Ohio State fan site praising Cowboys running back (and former Buckeye) Rod Smith’s 81-yard touchdown reception, a retweet he later undid.
When told of Apple’s tweets, Rodgers-Cromartie said, “That’s a tough one. I don’t know man. They probably had that kind of connection, but to do it during the game, that’s probably bad timing. But if that’s his brother or his friend or somebody he considers close like that, guys are always retweeting guys that they are like brothers with. So I can understand a little bit of it.”
What Rodgers-Cromartie wants Apple to understand is that he has his whole career still in front of him and that he needs to resist ay temptation to act out the wrong way out of frustration.
“I used to be that guy, you feel me? When you’re going through something, sometimes you don’t know really how to act out so you act a certain way and I get that,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “It just takes somebody to home in and make you feel loved.”
Has Apple shown any signs of getting that message?
“It’s hard to tell,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I can say he comes in here with the right mindset as far as coming in every day. He puts his stuff on, he goes out there and practices and he does what is asked of him. So I think for the most part, he gets it.”
Still, Rodgers-Cromartie admitted that he “sometimes” worries about Apple because he said the percentage of guys who have come back from a tough season isn’t high.
“But it’s possible,” Rodgers-Cromartie added. “I think it all depends on that person and how much they’re willing to take whatever is going to come at them and use it to better themselves. It always depends on that man.”
Rodgers-Cromartie revealed that despite Apple’s perceived poor attitude this season, the second-year player truly appreciates what he has with the Giants.
“Yeah, oh yeah. Definitely and he don’t want to leave here,” he said. “It’s been hard, but for the most part, I know he loves being a Giant and I know that for a fact.”
He just needs to show it a bit more.