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Superman Returns: Phillips hoping to rebound in 2011

Philadelphia Eagles' Brent Celek runs for a touchdown

Philadelphia Eagles' Brent Celek runs for a touchdown past New York Giants' Kenny Phillips during the fourth quarter. (Dec. 19, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

In the song “Land of Confusion,” Phil Collins sings this line:

Superman, where are you now?

For most of this season, Giants fans were singing the same tune. Only they weren’t looking for Clark Kent to turn into a superhero. They wanted Kenny Phillips to.

Phillips’ season coming off major knee surgery that many – including me – figured would be career-altering if not career-threatening, was remarkable in that he made it all the way through it. Didn’t miss but a handful of snaps, was hardly on the injury report at all, and played 16 games at safety.

“The season didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to, but it’s still a blessing to get through the season healthy, especially when there were people saying I wasn’t going to play football again,” Phillips said on Monday while he was cleaning out his locker. “I thought it was a big achievement.”

That’s where the remarkable stuff ends, though, because Phillips’ performance on the field was not deserving of his nickname: Superman. He had a career-high 77 tackles – which is to be expected since this was his first full year as a starter – but he had only one interception, which is half the number he had in two games in 2009. He also had only five passes defensed.

He was also involved on the play that really started the Giants’ slide out of the playoffs. While many people groused about having defensive end Justin Tuck dropping into coverage against Brent Celek in the fourth quarter of the Eagles game, it was Phillips who came up and whiffed on the tackle or the interception try or whatever he was trying to do. Even if he puts a glancing blow on Celek there and slows him down enough for someone else to tackle him, well, those are the kinds of thoughts that can haunt an offseason.

Phillips said that physically he was fine throughout the season, but it took him some time to get mentally adjusted to playing again.

“Just seeing the big picture, that takes time,” Phillips said. “As far as seeing things and certain things that you’re used to seeing, it was almost kind of new to me in the beginning. I was locked in on one side instead of being able to see the whole field. Just small things like that, that was the difference.”

“I’m used to seeing routes and that was slow to come along for the most part,” he added.

Phillips said he is looking forward to resting his knee, something he hasn’t been able to do since he began his rehab last fall. And he expects to be back next year without any limitations. There’s also the football axiom that says the second year is the one when a player really returns to form after knee surgery.

Will Superman be back in 2011?

“I hope so,” he said.

Did he think he was Superman in 2010?

“I thought I was something, I don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.”

 

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