Kenny Phillips likely to return for training camp

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants coaches and medical staff have told safety Kenny Phillips that a return to action in training camp is a realistic goal.

Getting his starting job back may be more problematic.

Not only does Phillips' surgically repaired left knee have to respond over the next few months, but he'll also face competition for his job.
The Giants didn't sign Deon Grant in the offseason for show. The 10-year veteran, who was cut by the Seattle Seahawks in a cost-saving move, is a durable cover safety who can step right in if Phillips' microfracture surgery keeps him out.

"Training camp is a goal of mine," Phillips said Thursday at the Giants' offseason conditioning program. "I feel like I should be able to go by then. If not, just keep working until I get there."

Phillips had an outstanding training camp a year ago, but the third-year pro was sidelined after two games with an arthritic condition that required surgery.

Phillips has not been able to cut and perform the stop-and-go action that his position requires. And he has no timetable as of now.

"I'm not sure yet," Phillips said. "I've been here walking around, but it'll feel really good to get out there and run again.

Phillips said he feels fine. He felt that way a month after his surgery.

"Never had no pain," he said. "During the season I had no pain and didn't feel like I'd lost anything. I was just ready."

In Grant, the Giants have a ball hawk who hasn't missed a game since his rookie year with Carolina in 2001. That's 144 starts, the NFL's fifth-longest active starting streak.

The way things stand now, if Phillips comes back in time for the Sept. 12 opener, that streak would be jeopardized.

Grant isn't worried.

"You know what? I don't even know what the numbers are," Grant said. "I don't even know about it unless somebody says something. My mentality is to go out there and play ball. I've never been the type to sit on the sideline, so I just go out and play ball. Any nagging injuries, I make sure to treat it during the week and be out there on Sunday."

Injuries devastated the safety spot in 2009, forcing the Giants to use a run-oriented safety such as C.C. Brown in pass situations, and transplanting cornerback Aaron Ross there for four games and a start.

The thought of a healthy Phillips playing next to a healthy Antrel Rolle, backed up by a seemingly indestructible Grant, would seem like an ideal situation.

But Grant sees himself as a starter, if not during his one-year, $855,000 deal here, then somewhere else after next season.

"Definitely. If I'm healthy and Kenny isn't healthy, I still look at myself as a starter," Grant said. "Even if he's healthy, after this year, I still feel I'll be a starter somewhere. I didn't lose my spot because of my ability to play. My stats speak for themselves as far as being consistent. So I look at myself as a starter."

The coaches have told Grant that he'll see plenty of field time.

New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to use three safeties simultaneously in his modified Tampa-2 system. At worst, the man with 26 career interceptions, three last year, would help fellow free agent pickup Rolle cover the deep middle while Phillips, a guided missile when healthy, would walk up as a hybrid linebacker in run support.

"That's what coach was saying," Grant said. "That's one of the reasons I came. He said with his defense, he always wanted to play with three safeties. So there's no reason I can't be out there."

And Phillips saw little reason he shouldn't be ready to resume his starting duties, either. First, he has to get his knee ready.

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