After emotional 330 days of rehab, Bills DT Harrison Phillips puts pads on again

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ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 22: Harrison Phillips #99 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates sacking Andy Dalton (not pictured) of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at New Era Field on September 22, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – “My heart was racing, it was like I drank a couple cups of coffee.”

That was the feeling Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips got in his first padded practice in 330 days.

“I just kept saying a lot of prayers and I really just kept looking down I was like “wow this is really it” like no training wheels, no Harrison come to the side we’re gonna do it at half speed. “Just so much emotion that goes into it but I looked at the pads, came out, took a knee, had a nice little prayer and then kind of flipped a switch and it was go time,” Phillips said on a zoom call with reporters.

After missing most of the 2019 season, Phillips felt back to full strength as the Bills put the pads on for the first time at training camp on Monday.

“The knees feel great, I’m able to go out there and perform and do my job right now. In terms of being a football player there’s still a lot of rust that needs to be knocked off,” Phillips said.

In week three last season against the Bengals, Phillips tore his ACL that caused him to miss the rest of his second season in the NFL. After surgery and over seven months of rehab, he is now fully cleared for contact.

“To gear all the way up cleats to helmet and shoulder pads and go out there and not just selfishly be able to go play football but again which obviously is my biggest passion but to go and be with my teammates with the guys that I love. To be out there and do that again is truly a blessing,” Phillips explained.

We’re now less than a month away from the Bills season opener against the Jets on September 13th. And with no preseason games, these practice reps are even more important especially for someone like Phillips who is coming off this injury.

“27 days of training camp is about five years of real life,” Phillip joked.

But he added he’s confident they’ll be ready to go in that time frame.

As far as personal goals and expectations he’s setting for himself this season, they’re actually quite simple.

“Hopefully today is the worst a football player I’ll be all year. This is my lowest bar I can only grow from here. I don’t want to make any vast, big judgements or anything but the most important thing coming off of something this traumatic is I want to be available the whole year. I want to be available for every single snap of every single game,” Phillips explained.

He said that might seem like a low bar to set but considering the type of injury he’s coming off, it makes sense.

“They types of blows and bangs that happen in the trenches so my number one goal is I want to make sure I’m healthy for the entire year,” Phillips said.

“So yes ideally I’d love to have to miss my first Pro Bowl because I’m getting ready for the Super Bowl. I think that’s what every player should be saying right now but I think the best answer is just that I want to make sure I’m available for every single game.”

As far as finding that balance between wanting to ramp up right away and not pushing it too hard, Phillips says he’s already noticing a difference in how he feels.

“From Friday first 100% speed practice to today I think I’m a completely different football player just in those three days and I think that’s just gonna continue to build and more and more trust,” Phillips explained.

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