Jaime C. Harris

As Kenny Phillips walked out of the Giants’ training camp dining hall on the campus of SUNY-Albany earlier this summer after an intense morning practice session, one in which he was not a participant, the third-year safety’s path was immediately impeded by a flock of reporters.

The attention Phillips is garnering in training camp reflects his importance to a team endeavoring to regain its status as one of the NFL’s elite franchises following a tumultuous 8-8 campaign in which they failed to make the playoffs.

On the verge of becoming a perennial Pro Bowl selection, the 23-year-old Phillips, a first round selection by the Giants in the 2008 draft after an outstanding collegiate career at the University of Miami, injured his left knee in the second game of the season last September against the Dallas Cowboys and underwent micro-fracture a little over a week later.

Doctors who were treating Phillips also learned that he had an arthritic condition in the knee that some medical experts deemed career threatening. Despite the alarming diagnosis and the grueling rehabilitation that stood in front of him, Phillips spirit and psyche was unbowed.

“Not at all. The trainers and doctors reassured me that I could make a full recovery and they kept me positive throughout the rehab,” Phillips answered when asked if he ever envisioned his career being over.

Without exception, those who frequently spent time with Phillips or regularly communicated with him via social networking tools said he was unwaveringly upbeat during his journey back to the practice field, where he made his return on Monday nearly one year after the injury.

“My teammates, they rallied around me,” Phillips said of the motivation and support provided by his Giants brethren. Even when I first got hurt they would still come to the house and watch TV with me and everything. The people around me have just been great.

The Giants signed two proven free agent safeties this summer – Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant – using history and logic as measures that it is doubtful Phillips will be playing at a high level by their opening game on September 12 versus the Carolina Panthers.

But if he does regain his form, they will could have one of the best defensive backfields in football, a unit that was a glaring weakness of the team in 2009.