Jermaine Phillips is one heck of a safety. He's one of the best in the NFC.
He should have gone to the Pro Bowl last year ahead of Dallas' Roy Williams. Injury will keep him out this year. Phillips had 83 tackles, four interceptions, and a sack last season, missing one game through injury. This season, he has missed four games with a broken forearm he suffered at Dallas. A metal plate holds the bones in place.
"I have two plates—one on each side," Phillips explained.
He has 41 tackles and two picks this year. Both have been huge. The first was instrumental in the defeat of Carolina in October, and the second was ever bigger.
Playing his first game in more than a month, Phillips provided a clutch, fourth-quarter interception of New Orleans' Drew Brees to set up Matt Bryant's winning 37-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining in the Bucs' 23-20 victory.
"I like to say I'm a human sacrifice," Phillips said. "I throw my body in there at will for the team. I love to do it. That's my role, and that's what I'm going to do. It's either I'm playing real physical and I'm going to break some bones, which happens, or I've got some really weak bones and I need to drink more milk."
Drew Brees, who hung 51 points on the Packers on Monday and is on pace to break Dan Marino's season yardage record, passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns. But the Bucs intercepted him three times.
The victory improved the Bucs to 9-3 and kept them tied atop the NFC South with the Panthers heading into their Monday night showdown with Carolina.
Phillips can become a free agent at the end of the season and knows Sabby Piscitelli, a second-round pick in 2007, is here to take his job. He doesn't worry about it.
"Enjoy the people you're around while you're here, and if you can help somebody out, help them out," Phillips said. "That's what (John) Lynch and Dexter (Jackson) did for me, and I just want to continue to do that for them. When it comes down to it, this game is bigger than me."
Many Bucs fans are high on Piscitelli as a starter. He reminds many of John Lynch—quick and hard-hitting. But Phillips is a leader on this team. He is a key cog in one of the better secondaries in the league that ranks third against the pass. The Bucs are fourth in total defense.
Jermaine Phillips is too good a safety to lose to free agency. He will command big money this offseason, so General Manager Bruce Allen would be wise to avoid a bidding war for Phillips' services.
In his own words, Phillips said, encouragingly:
"This safety position in Tampa, I want it to carry on."