Kenny Phillips hopes to play this Sunday against the Eagles. But he also hoped to play against the Ravens, too.
Just like this week, the Giants safety practiced each day leading up to the Ravens game and was listed as questionable with a right knee that has been ailing him since Week 4. But Phillips was inactive for the game.
"I was shocked. I had a great week of practice. The coaches were telling me how well I was doing," Phillips said. "I guess it just came down to, I guess, a numbers game, I’m not sure. Once again, they made the decision, and I just have to deal with it."
A "numbers game" must not have sat well with the former first-round pick and starter.
"Yeah, I was pretty (ticked) off," Phillips said. "But at the end of the day, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll just come to work and practice and work hard and let them make a decision."
Coach Tom Coughlin explained earlier in the week the decision to sit Phillips was based on if they thought he could play at a high enough level, and also filling the necessary roles on special teams -- the numbers Phillips referred to. It was the latest example of what Phillips described as a "long, frustrating year," since he injured his knee against the Eagles in September.
"Going into your last year (of your contract), you want to go out there, make a big splash, and just play as well as you can," Phillips said. "Especially coming off the Super Bowl. You feel good about your chances of repeating, get hurt early and then... Like I said, it’s been real frustrating. You’re on the field, and you’re off the field; you can play this week, you can’t play this week. It’s just been a long season, I’ll put it like that."
Phillips said he has been dealing with both an MCL sprain and a PCL injury. He was vague on the specifics other than to say, "I had some things, I’ll leave it like that." He said he won't need offseason surgery -- "that's one of the biggest things I was trying to avoid," he said -- but aspects of his rehab and return to the field have frustrated him.
Phillips wound up sitting out six games, through the bye, before re-injuring the knee in his return against the Packers. He played in a very limited role the following week against the Redskins but has not returned to the field since. Phillips repeated what he said earlier in the season, that he wished more rest was part of the initial rehab.
"There's a lot of things I would change, but like I said, a lot of it is out of my control," Phillips said. "I just have to listen to what the trainers say and the doctors say. Even though they’re not perfect, they’re humans also. So they’re capable of making mistakes, and I understand that. So, I'd definitely do a lot of things over, I think they’ll say the same thing. It is what it is now."
He added: "We had a few guys on the team with PCL injuries; it’s new for our team just trying to figure out how to handle them. And they're all different, none of them are the same. It’s hard to say sit out or rest or you're OK, or maybe run this week. It was just one of those processes with all of us. It probably hurt me the most, to be honest with you."
Stevie Brown stepped in ably as a starter in Phillips' absence, recording seven interceptions, and Will Hill has allowed the Giants to still be able to use their three-safety package. But Phillips' absence has been tangible.
"When you don’t have your playmakers on the field, it’s going to show," Phillips said. "I feel like I've played a big part on this defense. I don’t want to say it's a drop-off because Will Hill played great, Stevie played great. But you're just used to playing with a certain group, chemistry is built, morale. Your play feeds off each other. I think it’s a difference."
Phillips' five-year rookie contract is up after this season. He admits the possibility of this being his last game with the Giants has "crossed my mind" -- but his main focus is being able to play this week. Phillips hasn't asked his agent if there have been contract talks with the Giants yet, but he is confident in his NFL future, despite the frustration of injuries in a contract year.
"Whether it be with the Giants or someone else, I feel that what I've showed over my career, I feel like I will be able to play football somewhere," Phillips said.
Would he prefer to stay with the Giants? Phillips grinned and laughed.
"I'm just trying to get back on the field," he said.
When it was pointed out to him that's a different answer than players usually give, Phillips repeated, "I'm just trying to get back on the field."