Friday, September 25, 2009

Replacing a Play-maker: Kenny Phillips to IR

Fresh off of his best game as a pro, Kenny Phillips’ season abruptly came to an end on Thursday, as the Giants’ second-year Safety landed on IR with a rare knee ailment that had been affecting him since training camp: Patello-femoral Arthritis.

The Giants will miss not having No. 21 in pads this season.

The news hit me like…well, like Kenny Phillips. The young play-maker ranked up there among my favorite players on the team because of his outstanding athletic ability and the tremendous talent he brought to the position and to the field. At the beginning of the season, I tabbed him as my number one “Breakout Giant” of 2009.

But alas, the Giants put the brakes on the “Breakout Giant’s” 2009 season yesterday in hopes of addressing this serious condition as quickly and effectively as possible. Patello-femoral arthritis occurs when the cartilage behind the knee cap wears down to the point that the knee cap comes directly in contact with the femur…unpleasant, as you can imagine, and very rare for a 20-something year old football player.

Again, ouch.

While KP and the Giants were expecting/hoping to manage the injury throughout the season, an MRI on Wednesday revealed that Phillips’ condition had worsened since his 2 INT performance against the Cowboys. Word began circulating around noon on Thursday that the Giants were putting together a contingency plan, and shortly after 4pm, the worst was confirmed.

How Bad is It?

The nature of the injury, for me, is more troubling than the loss of Phillips’ presence on the field. And before I explain why I think the Giants will recover from this latest hit, I want to stress that KP’s recovery is what should take priority in everyone’s minds.

The phrase going around is “career-threatening,” due to the difficulties that come with treating it effectively and the rarity that it occurs in young people. Of course, a lot of this talk is coming from people unfamiliar with the specifics of Kenny’s injury, so take that for what you will. Ralph Vacchiano (see article) and Jenny Vrentas (see article) offer some great perspectives on that piece of the equation.

Ultimately however, a young man’s health and career could be in jeopardy. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and stay positive. I look at it this way: when the best athletes in the world work with the best doctors in the world, the outcome should be a good one. I expect to see Phillips back on the field next season to resume his promising career.

KP still has a few more Tony Romo passes to pick off...

Now back to the team…

Duck n’ Weave

Phillips is the first (and hopefully only) knockout blow in what has been a regular season filled with jabs through two weeks. With a basketball team’s worth of players watching from the sidelines, this team suddenly finds itself thin at positions many once considered to have great depth. Secondary is now at the top of that list.

C.C. Brown will start for Phillips, and the Giants claimed former Packer Aaron Rouse of waivers yesterday. Admittedly, both players are mysteries to me, though I think it’s safe to say neither has the raw play-making ability of KP.

Rolling with the Punches

Loss of talent aside, I don’t believe this will be a damning injury to the Giants’ chances this season. In the Giants’ scheme and with the talent already on the defensive side of the ball, Kenny Phillips’ talent was a luxury, not a necessity. With great pressure up front and solid cornerback play, Giants safeties just need to make tackles and be in the right place. While the preseason may have indicated this could be harder than it sounds for Brown, I have faith the Giants will be fine at the position. Here’s why:

First, Jerry Reese has a strong track record for bringing in mid-level talent via free agency. Kawika Mitchell and Danny Clark worked out well, and from first impressions Michael Boley could be a HUGE acquisition. Until proven otherwise, I will assume Reese has the same savvy for spotting solid DB’s as he does LB’s.

Second, this is an organization and locker room that demands its players be prepared to contribute at all times, and has a history of players upping their games to fill a void.
Despite an inconsistent preseason, Brown has become more comfortable in the system in recent weeks and has expressed his readiness to contribute in a bigger role.

Third, it doesn’t all fall on Brown, or Rouse...or Ed Reed if the Giants can pull off the long-shot Sinorice Moss trade to the Ravens. It will fall on the shoulders of everyone to pick up the slack, and if you put on a Giants jersey for a living, you can handle it. For those of us that put on the jersey for fun, I think we can handle it too…

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