Because of a knee injury to Butler, Phillips will line up with the first teamers at safety Sunday night in Philadelphia, where the 7-1 Giants will take on the 5-3 Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.
"I look at it as an opportunity to eventually become a starter," Phillips said. "I hate that it happened like this, but I'm just going to take advantage of my opportunity."
That opportunity comes in a prime time, nationally-televised high-stakes NFC East contest in front of a frenzied crowd.
"It's a coming out party," he said. "I appreciate it."
And by all accounts, he's ready for it. Phillips, the 31st overall selection from the University of Miami, has played well in the Giants' sub defenses. He has 30 tackles (one less than the other starting safety, Michael Johnson) and he intercepted a pass on the Steelers' final offensive play in Pittsburgh.
"He had a good week of practice," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think he is (ready). He has played a lot. It is not like he hasn't been on the field. He has been on the field extensively in a lot of different categories. So I think he is ready."
With Butler sidelined, 12-year veteran and first-year Giant Sammy Knight will likely get a larger role.
"Sammy's role, even last week, was expanded," Coughlin said. "And it will continue to be more than just special teams. And we have R.W. (McQuarters) ready to play safety as well."
Phillips said the veteran safeties, particularly Butler and Knight, have been good teachers for him this season.
"Those guys are tremendously smart," Phillips said. "They know what's going to happen before it does and even when I'm on the sideline, they coach me up and say watch out for this and when they do this, this is going to happen. So they have been a tremendous help."
Phillips arrived at training camp hoping to win an immediate starting job. He didn't think his opportunity to crack the lineup would wait until the season's second half.
"Honestly, I didn't but I accepted the role they gave me," Phillips said. "I was just being patient but now I have an opportunity, so I'm not really worried about it."
The Giants started the same four players in the secondary in each of the season's first eight games – Corey Webster and Aaron Ross at cornerback and Johnson and Butler at safety. Johnson, a seventh-round draft choice in 2007 from Arizona, earned the free safety job in training camp.
Butler has been the quarterback of the unit, getting everyone lined correctly up before each snap. That role will likely be Johnson's in Philadelphia.
"I'll be playing his position, so I'll have to step my game up as far as being vocal and communicating and making sure everybody is on the same page," Johnson said. "James is a verbal leader on the defense; he's the most vocal person on the defense, so it will take some effort to make sure we don't fall back replacing him."
Butler was hurt in last week's victory over Dallas. After sitting out Wednesday's practice, Butler worked on a limited basis yesterday. But today, "he wasn't able to go, so he will be out," Coughlin said. Butler, a fourth-year pro and second-year starter, believes his knee injury is a short-term problem.
"I tried it out and practiced Thursday but it didn't work out," he said. "Hopefully next week (he can play).
KP's in - Phillips to Start in Philly
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