Kenny Phillips not worried about Giants signing safety Antrel Rolle

Kenny Phillips knew what people were thinking when the Giants signed Antrel Rolle for $37 million on the first day of free agency. He knew some took it as a sign the Giants were worried he'd never make it all the way back.

But Phillips insists those fears are completely unfounded. In fact, he told the Daily News earlier Wednesday that his recovery from left knee surgery is on track to have him on the field for the start of training camp in July.

And once he's there, he plans to help Rolle make good on his vow that they'll form "the best safety tandem in the NFL."

"The coaches have reassured me they didn't bring him in to replace me - they made that very clear," Phillips said. "After the performance we had last year in the secondary, they had to bring someone in. It would be foolish not to. It'll be a privilege playing next to him."

That will happen, the third-year pro insisted, even though several orthopedic surgeons have said that the condition in his knee - patellofemoral arthritis - - can be career-threatening. Phillips and the Giants have denied that possibility from the moment his season ended after their Week 2 game last September. In fact, Phillips recently wrote in his blog that "I feel like I could play tomorrow."

Earlier today, Phillips added that team doctors have continually "assured me I can return and be 100 percent when I do."

"I feel real good," Phillips said. "I'm making a lot of progress. The rehab is coming along real well. I should be running soon - - probably by the end of this month. As far as they tell me, it's looking good. The knee is getting stronger."

The rehab, which Phillips has done mostly from his home in Miami, has been a very long process since he underwent surgery in September, mostly involving weights and strengthening exercises. He said he's consulted with some athletes who suffered from the same condition (though he declined to name them) and "They reassured me that it's something I can bounce back from as long as put in the work."

"Now I have no doubt at all," he said. "When it first occurred, I didn't really know what it was myself. But after talking to trainers and doctors, I felt great about it. I already feel myself get stronger and getting back to the form that I had. I feel that I didn't lose anything, to be honest with you."

Phillips will likely sit out the organized team activity (OTA) sessions in May and  June and the mini-camp in mid-June, but he "definitely expects to be ready for the start of full-speed practices in late July. He's so sure, in fact, that he occasionally pauses and pictures himself back on the field for the first time since mid-September.

"I kind of picture it all the time," Phillips said. "From the way my rehab is going I feel I'm definitely not going to lose anything. I can only get better. So I sometimes picture myself making interceptions, making tackles, just making the plays I used to. I just can't wait."

It'll be more exciting, he said, now that he'll be on that field with Rolle, whom he's known since he was as senior in high school and Rolle - then a senior at Miami - presented him with an award. He said he helped the Giants recruit Rolle and constantly talked with him as the ex-Cardinal was pondering the Giants' big offer.

Rolle, in fact, was scheduled to arrive in Miami earlier today to workout with Phillips - something the newest Giant said he planned to do a lot in the next few months.

"I'm looking forward to it," Phillips said. "You could say he'll be like that older brother for me. He's been in the league longer and he's someone I wouldn't mind taking advice from. He's very intelligent. He has experience. You can't do nothing but learn.

"It's going to be a great addition to an already pretty good secondary," Phillips added. "He's going to bring so much more to our secondary because of things he can do. He's basically a play-maker. You can sum him up in that one word. That's kind of what we were missing this last year."

They were missing that, at least in part, because Phillips was missing. So if he returns, the Giants won't have one play-maker at safety. They'll have two.

"I'm definitely excited," Phillips said. "(Rolle) has that Miami swagger. There's nothing wrong with it. He's very confident. And tell you the truth, we just have two guys that can go out and get it. Most teams usually have just one dog. For us, we have two of us that can go out make some plays.

"And like he said, if we go out there and work at it, we definitely can go for that title of best safety tandem in NFL."

Click here to order Kenny Phillips' proCane Rookie Card.

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