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Kenny Phillips Quantum Leap

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While starting every game in 2010, the 24-year-old safety still was brought along slowly in his return from microfracture surgery on his left knee that knocked him out of nearly the entire 2009 season.

Phillips primarily played deep while Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant were brought in and assigned more physical roles, especially with Grant up in the box.

But now with Grant gone and the rehab year under his belt, it's time for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to unwrap the 2008 first round draft pick.

"He was trying to -- I don't want to say 'baby me' -- but just playing it safe," Phillips said. "At the time, I didn't mind playing that role, especially if we were winning. Antrel Rolle was doing well, Deon Grant was doing well, so I just stuck to my role."

Fewell admitted as much.

"As a coach, I will admit that I protected him a little bit. I wanted Kenny to be on the field, I wanted him to play for us," Fewell said. "Football is a violent game and I tried to minimize the collisions that he encountered last year."

Headlined as "Superman's back" by some of his teammates at the beginning of last year's training camp in Albany, Phillips intercepted a pass from Carolina's Matt Moore in his first regular season game in almost a year.

That would be his only pick of 2010, but Phillips ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 77, including a career-high 10 against Green Bay in the second to last week of the season.

On Monday, Phillips addressed how his knee held up.

"I think it felt pretty good. I wasn't as close to as where I thought I would be. A lot of guys were telling me it was going to take a year, but I was doing my best to try to prove them wrong. It turns out, they were right," Phillips said. "Fortunately, I was able to finish the season. I had a few nicks here and there, but I'm just happy I got through it…Last year I spent the whole offseason rehabbing. This year, I was actually able to train, get myself ready to play football."

Phillips went on to say he feels like himself again and that the knee is no longer an issue, allowing him to fly around to the ball more often and see the field better.

"(I expect) to have a bigger role, be a part of the defense," Phillips said. "Last year a lot of the times I was in the post most of the whole game and now I'll probably take on a bigger role as far as getting down in the box and really being a part of the scheme."

And that's all coming from Fewell, who expects the fourth-year back to take a "quantum leap."

"He showed his football intelligence in the (first) two days of camp," Fewell said. "He is ready for that bigger role as we have talked. I am looking for big things."

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