Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Monday that he limited Phillips' playing time last season with the former first-round pick coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee and the Giants having the luxury of having veteran Deon Grant on the roster.
That's not going to happen this season.
Grant is no longer on the roster — at least the Giants haven't chosen to re-sign him at this point — and Phillips said his knee is 100 percent.
"I'm looking for him to take a quantum leap," Fewell said of Phillips. "After coming off his injury and playing in the 2010 season, 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. Football is a violent game and I tried to minimize the collisions that he encountered last year."
Fewell believes Phillips is ready for a bigger role, and so does the 24-year-old who is entering his fourth season.
"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," Phillips said Monday.
Phillips didn't mind that Fewell played it safe with him last season, noting that the presence of Antrel Rolle and Grant on the field meant there was no slippage when he was on the sideline.
Phillips admits that coming back from the surgery was difficult. Players told him it was going to take a full season for the knee to feel right and he says they were correct.
"Fortunately, I was able to finish the season," the former Miami Hurricane said. "I had a few nicks here and there, but I'm just happy I got through it."
Phillips had a good season, starting 15 of 16 games. His 88 tackles were fourth on the team, only 13 behind cornerback and team leader Terrell Thomas.
After a whole season of rehabilitation, Phillips said his knee never felt better, adding he hasn't seen the doctors about it in a while.
As opposed to a year ago when everyone watched his every step on the field, Phillips is no longer under the microscope.
"I feel good, coming out of my breaks, seeing the field a whole lot better and just being around the ball a lot more," he said.
The only thing that has changed is that Phillips is a little heavier than last season. He weighed in at 215 pounds before lunch.
Fewell quipped that he probably enjoyed too much of his mother's cooking during the lockout.
"I'm not worried about it," said Phillips, who wants to play at between 210 and 215 this season.
Neither is Fewell.
"He showed his football intelligence in the two days of camp," Fewell said. "He's ready for that bigger role as we have talked. I'm looking for big things."