At the moment, with what seems to have been a precaution or pre planned rest period for Kenny Phillips and his knee, I thought it might be interesting to do a comparison with a retired Soccer player over here in the English Premier League.
The player that I will use is called Ledley King, he retired aged 31 after a long successful career as the captain of Tottenham Hotspur.
I know that there are massive differences in the nature of the sports and there are also big differences in the nature of the injuries/conditions. When speaking about King's injury, former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp said:
There's no cure. There's no cartilage, nothing to operate on. It's just bone on bone. So it's just a question of managing it. It swells up after games and it normally takes seven days to recover
Kenny Phillips' condition is degenerative and hopefully is not at this stage yet although I expect he experiences something similar with his arthritis.
The main similarity between these two athletes is what they meant to their teams when they played (or what they could still mean to their team in Phillips' case), both are leaders on the field who play at a very high level.
I believe that Chip Kelly signed Phillips with full knowledge of his knee condition and what that could mean for his career in the future. It is no secret that Chip Kelly is forward thinking when it comes to the fitness of his players. From having sports science specialists to look at how specific players can train in order to achieve specific goals to having personalised smoothies, Kelly goes into detail in how he can get the best from the players he has on his teams.
I don't think it's very common for players to have a completely different training regime to the rest of their team mates and that is something that did happen for Ledley King. As it said in the quote above, it took him 7 days to recover after a soccer match, he would get a lot of swelling and excruciating pain. That meant that a lot of the time he was unable to take part in training with his team mates. He would keep himself fit by doing exercise that was tailored to him so that he could rest his knee. It makes sense that this level of flexibility is rare, if a player can't participate in practice the way that their team mates can then that puts them at a disadvantage to the other players at that position. Unless that player is very good, they will probably lose their place anyway.
That seems to be the hope for Kenny Phillips, he has had the most productive career of any of the Safeties on the Eagles roster so far in the league, if he can play in games and keep his stamina up then even if he lacks some of the preparation in the practices through sitting them out, he should be able to continue to perform at a relatively high level. Ledley King was a very talented Centre Back and a leader for Tottenham Hotspur and when he was on the field the team noticeably improved.
Ledley King's story gives me hope that if Kenny Phillips is given the right workload and is rested like he was over the past few days when he needs to be, he could be similarly effective for the Eagles as King was for Spurs. There is no doubt that a Safety in the NFL will be asked to make more sudden movements and abuse the knee more, so to speak, than a Centre Back in soccer but it is not unheard of for players with similar problems to what Kenny Phillips faces to shine out on the field even if it does mean that there are ominous periods where they do have to sit out practice and they will almost certainly be a constant presence on the injury report.
If this condition can be managed correctly then Kenny Phillips could be an absolute bargain and help restore a Secondary that is in need of a player of Phillips' calibre at the Safety position. I believe that if there is a group of coaches in the NFL that can manage something like this then Chip Kelly and his training staff may just be that group. There is a chance that Phillips will miss some games during the season even if he is as fit as he can be, especially if it is a short week, this is the type of thing where a lot of patience is needed. It's easy to see someone with bad knees out of practice and expect the worst after our recent history with knee injuries but even if everything is going to plan as it seems to be at the moment there could well be plenty more times that Phillips will miss practices or even games just to make sure that he doesn't over exert himself.
Having a star player for 14 of 16 games is better than not having a star player at all.