Phillips ready for bigger role in 2011

Perry Fewell admitted he tried to “protect” Kenny Phillips last season.

But that’s not going to be the case in 2011, because the Giants think the 24-year-old safety is ready for a much bigger role in the defense -- and they’re ready to cut him loose.

“I’m looking for him to take a quantum leap,” Fewell said of Phillips, who was tentative and unable to maintain his explosiveness last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2009. “I protected him a little bit because I wanted to keep him on the field and minimize collisions. But he’s showed his football intelligence in the first two days of camp, and his ready for another role in our defense. I’m looking for big things.”

Said Phillips: “Last year, I was coming off the injury and they were doing their best to keep me healthy as far as playing Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle (more). They were doing their best to play it safe with me. But this year, I’ve had a year under my belt to train and get back to where I need to be, and I’m looking forward to taking on a bigger role this year.

“I don’t want to say they ‘babied me,’ they were just playing it safe. At the time, I didn’t mind playing that role since Antrel and Deon were doing so well, so I just accepted my role.”

Coming off the surgery, Phillips was still rehabbing into last season’s training camp. But this season, he’s had time to train and get into football shape.

“I wasn’t as explosive as I thought I would be (last season), Rolle said. “A lot of guys were telling me, it’s gonna take a year. I was doing my best to prove them wrong, but as it turns out they were right. Fortunately, I was able to finish the season. I had a few nicks but I’m just happy I got through it.

Phillips, who had 77 tackles and an interception while appearing in all 16 games in 2010, envisions that he’ll be able to play more physical and move up into the box for Fewell out of the safety position. He’s going to have to, since it appears the veteran Grant won’t be back.

“Yeah,” Phillips said. “It’s gonna happen. I’m ready to take on a bigger role.”

Phillips says at this point his knee is no longer a concern.

“I feel fine, everything is great,” Phillips said. “The knee is not an issue. I feel good coming out of my breaks, I’m seeing the whole field a lot better and I’m around the ball a whole lot more.”

Fewell thought Phillips may have come into camp a little heavy, the result of a little too much “homecoming” during the offseason.

But the 24-year-old says he’s at 215 pounds, and thinks that’s pretty much his ideal playing weight.

“I don’t know, maybe (I gained) two or three pounds, but I had a long offseason,” Phillips said. “I’m not worried about it.”

While it sounds like Phillips may not be a concern, their may be some worry as to how the team handles the return of Steve Smith, if he does re-sign. The wide receiver also underwent microfracture surgery in the offseason, so only time will tell if the organization “protects” him like they did with Phillips, especially since he plays in the slot and is prone to potential collisions.