Phillip’s story is quite compelling. Playing for Miami (Fla), Phillips’ career was undistinguished, and injury plagued. He was a CB who was converted to safety in his Junior year. He showed flashes of greatness, but was inconsistent.
In the second game of 2009, Phillips suffered a torn ACL. He applied for, and received a medical dispensation from the NCAA that allowed him to return for his second Senior season.
Phillips suffered a torn right Labrum, but played through it in 2010. Phillips opted to undergo surgery rather than play in a Bowl game.
His draft stock plummeted, and health concerns caused him to go undrafted in 2010.
The Lions hired defensive backs coach Tim Walton in 2009. Walton was Phillips’ defensive coordinator at Miami in 2007, before moving on to Memphis.
Walton did some arm twisting until defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and head coach Jim Schwartz relented and signed Phillips as an UDFA.
Phillips, who missed the combine while rehabbing his shoulder, showed up for the first Lions mini-camp and promptly failed his physical. It was back to rehab for Phillips.
Phillips was medically cleared to play, but had missed OTA’s, mini-camps, and a week of training camp. Phillips looked to have zero chance of making the team.
The Lions safety unit was so depleted by injuries that Phillips immediately got first team snaps in camp.
What I personally witnessed was the best safety on the field in training camp. I know, that’s not saying much considering the train wreck that the DBs were at that time.
Phillips seemed to be in on every play, exhibited techniques that you would normally see in a CB, and was an athletic freak in spite of his unpolished skills.
I spoke to Gunther Cunningham about Phillips during camp.
Me: “Coach, who is Phillips? He looks like the real deal!”
GC: “Randy is my man! Tim (Walton) insisted on our signing him.”
Phillips continued to impress during camp, but suffered a setback when CB Amari Spievey was converted to safety. Phillips saw action in all four preseason games, but looked too undisciplined to consider keeping.
When the Lions made their final cuts, Phillips got the Square Peg treatment and was waived.
Phillips cleared waivers and was added to the practice squad. Phillips was briefly activated for Weeks 1 and 2. He played only 13 snaps, making four tackles.
Phillips was sent back to the practice squad where he remained until Christmas Eve. Once again, Phillips was activated, but did not play after being involved in an unspecified off-field incident.
A team source told me that it was a minor infraction, but would not elaborate. Lesson learned. I hope.
I expect to see some major improvement in Phillips in 2011. I’m sure that Tim Walton, and Gunther Cunningham expect nothing less in this make, or break season for Randy Phillips.