The mystery is over. Kenny Phillips will spend the rest of the 2009 season on injured reserve, and the Giants were awarded waived Green Bay safety Aaron Rouse to replace him. Rouse will now undergo intensive training and must be ready to contribute as a sixth defensive back Sunday in Tampa Bay.
The decision to IR Phillips came as little surprise, as that had been one of the early possibilities. An MRI yesterday showed the cartilage condition in his left knee, termed Patella Femoral Arthritis, had worsened over the last couple of weeks despite time off from practice. No determination has yet been made on whether he will have surgery.
In fact, Phillips was hoping until the last minute that he could be nursed through the season.
"(Going on IR) never crossed my mind, ever,” Phillips said. "I knew the situation. I just felt I could push it through the season. So to get this news is a real shock."
What is for certain is that Rouse resembles Phillips in no way, shape or form. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound Rouse was the Packers' third-round pick in 2007. He started 11 of 27 games. He had a 99-yard interception return off Peyton Manning -- the longest interception return for a touchdown in Lambeau Field history -- last year. He played in both games this year, getting nine tackles last week against Cincinnati and three in the opener against Chicago.
"I really feel for Kenny because he had worked so hard during the offseason to prepare himself for the ‘09 season," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He had a great camp and was just beginning to come into his own and showed flashes of being one of the premier safeties in the NFL. We expect him to recover from this setback and come back stronger than ever. This league is about making adjustments and we will do that."
Phillips thought he was doing just that. For a second-year player who was never hurt, this comes as much as a blow to him as the depleted secondary.
"I hate to miss out on this season," he said. "We have such a great team I wish I could just be a part of it, helping them out. I know the team is going to support me. They are treating me like family, like I am their son, brothers or whatever. Jerry Reese came down and talked to me, Coach Coughlin, the training staff, everyone has been real supportive of me.
"I am only in year two, so I feel this is the right decision. Longevity is the key, so this is why we are going through with it."
Sitting around watching his teammates battle through the NFC East won't be easy. He'd worked hard during training camp to further absorb a defense in which he appeared occasionally lost last season. But he knew what was on the line, having been handed the starting strong safety job after James Butler departed for St. Louis.
"That is probably the toughest part - I worked hard this offseason and I felt like this was going to be a big year not only for me, but for the Giants," Phillips said. "I started the season off pretty well with a few tackles, interceptions and for it to just get snatched away from me like this is real tough.
"We’re only in Week 3, so I don’t know how I am going to find a way to cope. But if anything it makes me want to work even harder. Playing two games, I had a pretty good start and I want to do better than that next year."