Rewind to this time last year and the buzz on Phillips was red-hot. NFL analysts were falling over themselves lauding Phillips’ talent and instincts. While Phillips was entering his first season as a starter, he showed enough promise his rookie year to have people excited.
After two games where Phillips looked like a dominant defender, the other shoe dropped harder than I can remember; Phillips was out for the season. And it wasn’t because he tore a ligament like his ACL, MCL or PCL, which would have been better than the reality.
It was because Phillips, a second year NFL player at the age of 22, had patellofemoral arthritis. What that means is that Phillips had degenerative arthritis so advanced he had little to no cartilage left in his knee.
To give you an idea of how serious this is there was serious doubt as to whether Phillips would be able to play ever again. Talk about an emotional roller coaster for Giants fans. One second they think he is a 10-year pro-bowl safety waiting to happen, the next he might not ever play a down of football ever again.
Now microfracture surgery is a process in which tiny cracks are put in strategic areas in the knee, so that blood will flow and clot, which can create more cartilage. This surgery wasn’t one of several options for Phillips, it was the only option. And as Penny Hardaway and Terrell Davis can tell you, there is no guarantee that it will work.
With Phillips going down in September of last year and now with the news that Phillips will start Week One against the Panthers means that in under a year Phillips’ knee has heeled from the surgery, re-grown enough cartilage to play, and gotten into game shape. If that isn’t a miracle I don’t know what is.
Now the news that Phillips is going to start does not mean that he is back to being the athlete he was. Even athletes who have returned quickly from microfracture surgery have not been the same as pre-surgery until year two. So even though Phillips is back, he won't be the Phillips of old until next year.
On top of that there is the fact that no one knows, not even doctors, how quickly Phillips new cartilage will last. Is it possible that it could degrade at the same accelerated rate as his original cartilage? Sadly yes, and perhaps even faster than that, again no one knows.
So to recap how impressed am I with Phillips’ recovery? On a scale of 1-10 I would say 25. I thought he would start this season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and be ineligible for the first six games of the season. I thought it would be a nice bonus if he could start the season as a backup.
And I won’t be the only won picking up my jaw; it will be a massive boost for Phillips’ teammates and fans alike to see him starting. Phillips was very well liked by his teammates and fans and the news that he was out for the season, and possibly his career, was a tough pill for everyone to swallow.
Now with Phillips back on the field, he can be an inspiration to his teammates, an example of what one can accomplish with tough work, a strong will, and the best medical care money can buy.
We can all only hope that Phillips new cartilage is tougher than the old stuff, because few things would make the Giants organization and fans happier than a healthy Kenny Phillips patrolling the Giants back end for the next decade.