Harrison Phillips has been the highest-rated member of the Buffalo Bills defensive line this season — and doing it all while nursing a significant injury.
The team revealed on Monday that Phillips tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the preseason, and since then has been playing his way back to full health. Despite the ailment, Phillips has been able to turn in some strong performances and helped to anchor one of the league’s top defenses.
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Phillips Reveals Injury
While Phillips didn’t get into specifics about the knee injury that first sidelined him in August, the defensive tackle revealed to the Buffalo News that it was a ligament tear. Phillips said he had been able to play his way through, rejoining the team in time for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I tore my PCL,” Phillips said. “But it definitely could have been a lot worse. And I was able to work myself to be ready for Week 1 with Star being out, then got a couple more weeks of rest and now I’m starting to really feel like myself again.”
A PCL tear is not nearly as serious as the ACL, an injury that Phillips already suffered in his second season. When he went down again this preseason, Phillips said it brought back bad memories.
“I have like PTSD; went back to some really bad places,” Phillips said. “That’s how that thing kind of is. You always expect the worst and immediately jump ship, so luckily it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”
Phillips said he’s happy to have those injuries in his past and feels he’s getting better and better the further he gets from the setback.
“Every year that I play in the league I feel more and more comfortable,” Phillips said. “I still don’t believe that I’ve hit my ceiling yet. Last year was difficult for a bazillion reasons, but No. 1, coming off the double knee surgery, so I didn’t really feel like myself there until really those last six, seven, eight games and through the playoffs, I started playing a lot better. We kind of had some time off. And then this offseason everything was going great, training camp was going great, and then I had the PCL.
Phillips Shines for Bills
As Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire noted, Phillips has turned in a strong season for a Bills defensive line dealing with injuries and illness. He filled in for defensive tackle Star Lotulelei during his stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and earned strong marks from the football analysis outlet Pro Football Focus. PFF rated Phillips as the No. 14 interior defensive lineman in the NFL, ranking him above Bills teammates Lotulelei and Ed Oliver.
With Lotulelei still out, Phillips helped the Bills defense to shut down an injury-plagued New Orleans Saints team on Thanksgiving. The Bills held the Saints to six points and just 190 total yards, and Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the defensive line was the driving force behind the win.
“That’s what I expected, to be honest with you. That’s what veterans leaders do, lead by their play,” McDermott said via video conference.
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