Giants rookie safety Kenny Phillips during training camp at the...

Giants rookie safety Kenny Phillips during training camp at the University at Albany. Credit: Newsday / David L. Pokress

If Kenny Phillips were a dragster, he'd be ready for the hot rod circuit.

But the safety, who still is recovering from major knee surgery in September, will be asked to do more than just run in a straight line when he returns to the football field for the Giants. He plans to be able to cut and turn by the time training camp starts, calling it one of his goals.

As of right now, though, Phillips still is running in only one direction. After what he's been through, even that's a relief.

"I was excited," Phillips said of getting back to speed earlier this month. "It was seven months that I couldn't run. It was tough just walking around, and it felt really good to get out there and run again. No pain, no nothing. I feel like I'm 100 percent."

Phillips wouldn't even rule out a return to the field for the June minicamp, although the Giants likely will hold him back as a precaution. That's the best-case scenario, having to rein Phillips back. The worst-case? Well, his name is Deon Grant.

Grant is the 11-year veteran the Giants brought in late in free agency as a backup to and potential plug for Phillips. He's also a mentor.

"I love Kenny," Grant said. "We had a long talk yesterday. I tried to make sure his confidence level hasn't dropped and I told him to take his time with his knee. Don't rush out there and put bad stuff on film. We had a long talk and established that friendship and that brotherhood fast."

Grant, who has started 144 straight regular-season games, said the prospect of sitting behind Phillips might be more difficult than having to take his place.

Said Grant: "Even if he's healthy, then after this year I'll be a starter somewhere. That's my mentality . . . Of course, I still look at myself as a starter."

But around here, it's only if he has to be.

Notes & quotes: WR Domenik Hixon signed his tender offer from the Giants worth $1.759 million . . . Fellow restricted free agent DT Barry Cofield, given a second-round tender, said he doesn't see the "urgency" to sign it but that he will eventually. He is unhappy with the uncapped year that is preventing him from being unrestricted but said he is not disgruntled and is looking forward to playing in 2010 . . . RBs Brandon Jacobs (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle, feet) have begun running after surgeries . . . Eli Manning said the Giants plan on practicing in the New Meadowlands sometime this spring . . . GM Jerry Reese, in his pre-draft news conference, said the team isn't focusing on linebackers next week although that appears to be its most pressing need. "We only have seven picks," he said. "We are just looking for seven guys that can help us."

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