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The reins are off Phillips


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ALBANY - Kenny Phillips made two great plays in the first practice of training camp, coming up strong to make a diving interception and then collecting a tipped ball for a second pick.


Of course he did. This is Albany, after all, scene of Kenny Phillips' Greatest Hits. He dazzled everyone here last year as well, a brash rookie making athletic plays from sideline to sideline. But when the regular season began, all of that potential was bottled up. "Mr. August" wasn't on the field very much, playing mostly on third downs, and when he was in the game, he was restricted in what he was allowed to do.


"Last year I couldn't get two yards off the hash," Phillips said, using images of "shackles" and "whips" to talk about the limits put on him. "It bothered me a lot. I felt like it was stopping me from being who I am."


Now that he's no longer a rookie, though, he can turn in his junior license and enjoy full driving privileges.


"I feel free," he said. "My wings, they're behind me."


They certainly were Monday. And they were fluttering in sync with the rest of the secondary. On the first interception, in a seven-on-seven drill, Phillips came up quickly on a pass from Eli Manning to Domenik Hixon. Phillips said he saw the play coming and before the snap told cornerback Corey Webster to cover his back in case he couldn't make the play. But he could, darting in front of Hixon and swooping in for a low, rolling catch.


It was the kind of play that an experienced NFL safety can make. It was the kind of play that Phillips would not have been allowed to try last year. "I don't even want to get into what probably would have happened to me last year [on a play like that]," he said, chuckling.


The second pick, also in seven-on-sevens, was on a pass from David Carr to Steve Smith. Webster was covering Smith and went up to defend the pass, but rather than just knock it down, he deflected it to Phillips.


"He saw me coming and he tipped it right to me," Phillips said. "I saw him do it. It didn't go straight in the air. I tell Corey all the time, 'I'm a tip away from you.' "


Those two plays were enough to electrify the fans in attendance, as well as some other important onlookers.


"They were two outstanding plays," Tom Coughlin said.


"I was back here cheering, 'Keep it up! Keep it up!' "


Maybe this year he will.


Notes & quotes: DE Justin Tuck missed the team's first practice for what Coughlin called "precautionary" reasons. He worked in the afternoon session. DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) and DT Barry Cofield (knee) skipped the afternoon workout per their one-a-day schedule. G Rich Seubert (shoulder) also sat out the afternoon . . . Besides Phillips' two interceptions, Aaron Ross made a nice pick on a pass from Manning to Smith down the left sideline. Ross caught the ball but lost his helmet on the play . . . Rookie QB Rhett Bomar looked sharp, throwing some of the best passes of the day, which could spell trouble for second-year third-stringer Andre Woodson.

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This guy is going to be considered as the best safety in the NFL not named Ed Reed in a couple of years... and this is year one of that ascension. This guy's skill set is beyond any safety we've had in at least a couple of decades.

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