Former New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips was an integral aspect of the team's 2011 Super Bowl championship. In fact, it was Phillips himself who knocked Tom Brady's final Hail Mary out of the air and onto the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, just out of reach of Rob Gronkowski's desperate dive towards the ball. During his time with the Giants, Phillips established himself as a physical presence and made throwing the deep ball a precarious endeavor for any opposing quarterback. His inability to stay consistently healthy plagued his production over his final season, but there's no denying the positive impact he had on this defense throughout his five seasons with the team.
When he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, it sent Big Blue fans into a frenzy. Many called him a traitor for jumping ship to one of the Giants most hated rivals, especially for a mere one-year contract. Although popular opinion was that Phillips wanted to return to the Giants, his arrival in Philadelphia shows the disdain he developed for the Giants organization throughout his final season with the team. If Phillips wanted to be a Giant this season, he would have been. His desire to leave is the sole reason why he will not be on the team in 2013.
Phillips is even on record as stating his displeasure with how the team's medical staff initially treated the MCL sprain in his right knee that caused him to miss nine games in 2012.
"When we started our rehab we didn’t go about it the right way, and now here we are, we’re dealing with it right now,” Phillips said. “I don’t want to get into (specifics). It just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m mad about it. It is what it is. No one’s perfect. I just think we both felt that something needed to change. We needed to change up the rehab. We just felt like we weren’t doing the right things. So we just switched up and it immediately starting feeling better. So I’m here now. I’m not worried about the games that I missed.”
Phillips did not go to Philadelphia to spite the Giants. 99% of the time, an NFL free-agent is going to sign with the team that will pay him the most money. For Phillips, he wanted to take a one-year "prove it" contract with anybody else but the Giants, which was the team that precluded him from being able to sign a big-money contract this offseason, and take his chances on the free-agent market again in 2014. A risky strategy, but potentially an effective one if he can stay healthy.
However, throughout his entire career, Phillips was taught to develop a strong aversion towards his fellow NFC East foes. Now that Phillips plays for one of his former team's most intense rivals, he says that he has no choice but to cultivate a dislike for the very franchise that brought him into this league and became a Super Bowl champion with.
“It's weird," Phillips said. "It's definitely weird. But at this point I can't say I hate the Giants. When I was with the Giants I kind of disliked the Eagles. But I can't just say right now I hate the Giants. I guess I'll have to learn to hate them.”
Phillips will be missed next season. The Giants will get by with a combination of Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Will Hill and Ryan Mundy at safety, and we may be surprised by just how much that group produces in 2013. However, just as Kenny Phillips will learn to hate the Giants, Giants fans will learn to hate him as well.
Once a Giant, always a Giant. Kenny Phillips, of all people, will always be a Giant and it's a shame his career in New York ended the way it did. If he has a poor season in Philadelphia and his market value drops in 2014, general manager Jerry Reese may consider bringing Phillips back after next season, similar to the recent re-signing of Aaron Ross. Until then, Giants fans are going to have to watch one of the most underrated players on the roster (when healthy) suit up in Eagles' green in 2013.
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