For four weeks, Kenny Phillips has been able to do nothing but watch.
The Giants safety has been sitting out with a sprained MCL in his knee, watching as backup Stevie Brown went from journeyman to star, making four interceptions in four games as opponents have tried to test him.
And now, Phillips is ready to join the party. On Thursday, the safety announced that he expects to play on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m going this week,” Phillips said. “I do feel confident in my knee. It’s been a long, long process, but I feel like it’s good enough for me to get back out there and make some plays.”
That means that for the first time since the start of the season, the Giants’ safety rotation is completely healthy. Phillips practiced for the first time in nearly a month last week, and he’s continued to progress this week; he worked through his first full practice on Wednesday then went through a limited session on Thursday.
Safety Antrel Rolle also worked through a limited session Thursday, his first action since suffering a head injury on Sunday in Dallas.
Rolle said he didn’t know if he’d suffered a concussion, but he still needed to pass the league’s protocols for such an injury before returning to action.
“I went through the tests and everything, and I’m back out here to work,” Rolle said.
It all gives the Giants an overabundance of depth at safety. Phillips and Rolle began the season as undisputed starters, but Brown’s play has forced him into the Giants’ long-term plans.
The third-year safety began the season as a special teams demon, but he currently has five interceptions, second-most in the NFL. Brown made two interceptions and recovered a fumble in Sunday’s win over the Cowboys.
It’s no wonder Phillips said he’d take “whatever role they give me.”
He added that “there’s definitely a chance” that the Giants utilize a defensive package that includes all three safeties on Sunday, especially since they’ll face a Steelers offense that ranks ninth in the league in passing. But if that doesn’t happen, Phillips said, he’s content to be eased back into the action.
“If I have to back up my backup, I’ll do it,” he said.
Deep down, though, Phillips wishes he could be enjoying the season that Brown has had. He talked in the preseason of making more interceptions, but opponents, wary of his playmaking ability, have rarely tested him the last few seasons.
Teams have attacked Brown, though, so much so that Phillips wondered Thursday if maybe “they couldn’t see him.”
“Half the time, he’d be sitting in the middle of the field, and they’d just throw the ball,” Phillips said. “He’s making the play for it.”
“We’d all like to get interceptions,” he added, “but Stevie’s the guy right now.”
Phillips hopes his chance comes soon, though. Offenses must now account for Brown, he said, which could create chances for the Giants’ other two safeties.
“I hope so,” Phillips said. “That’s what I’m really hoping.”