ALBANY -- There were times last season when Kenny Phillips felt so far away from the action that he was bored.
"For the most part, I was back deep, I felt like I was catching punts," the safety said Monday at Giants training camp. "It was tough. I mean, you never want to go through a game and be like 'What happened?' To hope that someone breaks [through] just so you can make a tackle, that's pretty bad."
That was supposed to change this season. With Terrell Thomas back from injury and Prince Amukamara stepping up, Phillips and fellow safety Antrel Rolle were anticipating a return to their more traditional roles.
Of course, Thomas' knee injury has put everything on hold for a while. Thomas suffered a partial tear to his surgically repaired ACL on Sunday and his future -- both long and short term -- is in doubt as he awaits a final diagnosis. Thomas Tuesday flew to California to consult with Dr. Arthur Ting, the surgeon who performed his allograft reconstruction last September. The Giants tried to sort out how to adjust to the possibility of another season without Thomas.
"When [Thomas] went down [last preseason], it threw everything into a tizzy for a while," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said earlier this week. That tizzy might be back, especially after the Giants learned Tuesday that safety Tyler Sash will be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance- enhancing drugs.
(Sash, in a statement, said he took the prescription drug Adderall under a doctor's care and was unaware it was on the league's list of banned substances.)
It wasn't just the loss of Thomas that created the shift in responsibilities among the safeties last season. The Giants also had four other cornerbacks go on injured reserve and spent most of the year without Amukamara. Of the top six cornerbacks on the Giants' depth chart heading into this training camp, only Corey Webster played a full season for the 2011 team.
Many of those have returned healthy, though, so even if Thomas is lost for the year again, it won't necessarily mean a realignment for Phillips -- who is in the last year of his contract -- and Rolle. At least the Giants hope it doesn't.
"We're both, I believe, playmakers, especially with the ball in the air," Phillips said. "It's just that half the time we don't get that opportunity because of the positions we were playing in. But him coming back to safety and coach Perry wanting to draw some defenses to get us more involved, I think our interceptions will go up this year."
Phillips might not have been satisfied sitting back deep in centerfield for most of the season, but he was in the right place when he needed to be on the season's final play. He was one of the Giants jumping in the end zone to knock Tom Brady's potential Hail Mary pass away from Rob Gronkowski as the clock ran out on Super Bowl XLVI.
Even after that play, Phillips said he was looking forward to getting closer to the line to make some more plays. Asked what he and Rolle can accomplish if both are allowed to roam free in the secondary, Phillips shook his head.
"Oh man," he said. "The sky's the limit."
Now he just has to wait and see how the Giants adjust to Thomas' injury and Sash's suspension to learn if he can reach that limit.