After 11 months, Kenny Phillips stepped out of the phone booth Monday morning, if only for a few snaps.
New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips returned to practice for the first time in 11 months Monday morning. Phillips, nicknamed Superman by his teammates, was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee during the 2009 camp and played through the pain for two regular season games before undergoing microfracture surgery and landing on the injured reserve list. (Video captures by Will Montgomery - The Record).
However, he was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee during the 2009 camp and played through the pain for two regular season games before undergoing microfracture surgery and landing on the injured reserve list.
“I tell them I feel like Clark Kent right now,” Phillips laughed after Monday's morning practice at the University at Albany. “I'm working on putting the cape back on.”
Phillips returned to team scrimmage drills Monday morning and saw just two plays per team scrimmage session, about a dozen in all. He was not tested on any deep passes.
“Yeah, and this is the part of it, we want to feed him back in slow, real slow,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “But we had him out there, which was good and gave him a couple of snaps on each drill.”
Kenny Phillips takes a breather during the evening session of Monday's practice at UAlbany. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt was glad to see Phillips on the practice field in full-speed game scenarios, even if most of the plays Phillips saw were runs.
“You can try to micromanage and tell him this is the way the ball is going to break and this is a drill we're going to do, but a lot of the time, the players, they will play the drill instead of actually naturally moving and reacting with instincts,” Merritt said. “To see him get out there in the team period and not know whether it's run or pass, that's what you want to see.”
In the offseason, the Giants signed veteran safeties Antrel Rolle, another University of Miami product, and Deon Grant, a 10-year pro who most recently played in Seattle. That duo has played most of the snaps in the defensive backfield with the starting unit, meaning Phillips may start the season as the Giants' nickelback in third-down passing situations.
“I'm not really worried about that,” Phillips said. “If I come in on third down, that's fine with me. I've been away from football so long, any type of playing is good for me right now.”
Michael Johnson, Sha'reff Rashad, John Busing and Michael Greco all factor into the Giants' safety plans as well.
Giants quarterbacks Rhett Bomar, Jim Sorgi and Eli Manning (left to right) practice their footwork during Monday's practice at the University at Albany.
Although Phillips did slip once, Merritt said was a positive sign that means he trusts what his body can do at this point.
Phillips took a different angle to that issue – blaming his shoes.
“I'm just going to blame it on the cleats,” he laughed. “I'm going to blame it on the cleats. I'm just not going to wear those cleats anymore.”
The Giants are getting healthier in the second week of training camp. Center Sean O'Hara and tight ends Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard also returned to practice Monday morning.
“You’d like to have all your players practicing and playing,” said Coughlin. “They’re excited about that. Everybody wants to be full strength. Nobody wants to stand there and look at the sideline and see these guys over there with the trainers, so it’s a good sign.”
Phillips is confident that he's back, better than ever and ready to play like the first round pick the Giants hoped he would be.
“Honestly, I had no doubts. No doubts at all because of the trainers and the doctors,” he said. “They reassured me I could make a full recovery, so I had no doubts at all.”
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs meets the press following Monday's morning practice.
ALBANY – Brandon Jacobs made a fashion statement – and a football politics statement - when he stopped to speak with the media between practices Monday.
The New York Giants running back was wearing a white t-shirt with blue letters that said: “Free 17 let him ball out.”
The shirt was a reference to former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who wore No. 17 and is currently in the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome on criminal weapons possession charges stemming from an incident in a New York nightclub in November 2008. While his sentence runs until June 2011, Burress' lawyer recently said that he has applied for work release and could be let go sooner than that.
“The shirt I have on? You won’t see that anywhere unless you go and get it made just like I did,” Jacobs said. “I just had it made. It only took a couple minutes, so you can get one, too.”
Jacobs also said that he had been in touch with Burress before training camp started.
“I’m just hoping for the best for him and his family. Hopefully, he can get out and continue his career,” Jacobs said.
In other running backs news, Jerald Ingram (pictured below), the Giants' running backs coach, said that the team is not focused on who will be the starting running back come opening day.
Inspired by what the New Orleans Saints did last year with four runners splitting time in the backfield en route to a Super Bowl title, the Giants are hoping Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown and Danny Ware can fill in behind Jacobs. Brown (ruptured achilles tendon, missed entire 2009 season) and Ware (just 13 attempts in 2009) are expected to carry more of the load this season.
“We have a group of guys that aren't selfish in what they do and they just try to help everybody grow along and have some depth,” Ingram said.
Webster's all over Barden
Cornerback Corey Webster made a nice pass defense early Monday on a long attempt from Eli Manning to Ramses Barden. A few plays later, Webster intercepted a similar pass, again thrown by Manning and intended for Barden. Later in the practice, Webster broke up another pass intended for Barden.
In other receiving news, wideout Victor Cruz and tight end Bear Pascoe made two nifty catches apiece in the morning session. Wide receiver Mario Manningham also dropped two straight passes intended for him.
Offensive line shuffled
With left guard Rich Seubert out until Wednesday with a broken left hand, Guy Whimper filled in on the offensive line. Seubert will wear a padded glove when he returns to training camp but Coughlin is unsure of his availability for preseason games and the start of the regular season.
Center Shaun O'Hara returned from a sprained ankle, bumping fourth-year veteran Adam Koets back to the second team.
“When I'm 75, I think I could still snap to Eli and it would be like old times,” O'Hara, pictured above, said. “That felt fine. The exchange was fine. Just being out there...I've been doing this a long time, so it comes back pretty quick.”
Offensive lineman Will Beatty was poked in the left eye in the morning session. He went to the sidelines for a few minutes but returned later in the practice.
Shaun O'Hara stretches out prior to Monday's evening practice at the University at Albany. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
The Giants will now practice this Friday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in a light jog-through. Originally scheduled morning and evening sessions have been canceled.