Former Bills Fan-Favorite Breaks Silence on Return to Buffalo

Harrison Phillips

Getty Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips #97 of the Minnesota Vikings walks on the field before a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 14, 2022.

The Buffalo Bills (6-2) matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (7-1) is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic games of the season. Aside from not knowing whether or not quarterback Josh Allen will be healthy enough to start, it marks the first time that former Bills fan-favorite, Harrison Phillips, will play against Buffalo.

While the Bills made numerous tough roster cuts in order to clear the salary cap for the 2022 NFL season, one of the hardest goodbyes happened in March, when the team didn’t re-sign the defensive tackle. Harrison was immediately snatched up in free agency and signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Vikings.

Phillips had spent his entire career with the Bills, as he was the team’s third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. During an interview with Spectrum News 1 on Wednesday, the 26-year-old broke his silence on facing his former team for the first time. The Stanford alum admitted that heading into Highmark Stadium is going to be incredibly difficult.

“I’m really trying not to think too much about it because it is going to be very emotional for me,” Phillips said. “I don’t how I’m going to act. I really don’t. I’m not a mean, bully guy. I’m going to want to hug all my friends and hype my guys up. I don’t have any ill will toward the players there, but it’s still a physical game and I gotta go blow through these guys.

“So, it’s going to be very interesting. I’m so excited to see some of the guys. I already have some things planned for my hour window of time Saturday night and after the game. Going to drive over and see some of the guys. But I do know that walking into the stadium on the left side of the tunnel and going into the left side of the locker room, it’s going to be a really weird feeling. And when I go out for pregame… am I allowed to go sit at my normal spot on the defensive bench? I’m going to have to do it on the other side now. I don’t know how it’s all going to play out.”

Phillips Said He Never Thought He’d Enter Free Agency

While Phillips makes it clear that he “genuinely really, really loves Minnesota,” and that “it’s been incredible” so far, he noted, that week/two-week window prior to even thinking I’d be a free agent… yes, that was so difficult.”

“My expectation versus what really happened, you know, that business side of the sport, was just a harsh reality for me. That my wet-behind-the-ears kid just never thought it would ever happen. And then when it was clear that I was going into free agency and there were a dozen other teams that were a better option for me, I obviously had to focus on that. But it was a huge challenge.”

Phillips said he’s moved on by separating his ties to Buffalo and the Bills. “I’m no longer affiliated with the Bills… but it will always feel like home for me.” The two-time Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee continues to return to Western New York in order to continue work with his charity, Harrison’s Playmakers.

“A lot of the players on the Bills team are great friends of mine. And because I was there for four years and I’ve only been here for X amount of months, my relationships with them are still even stronger probably than what I’ve been able to build in my short time here. But as time goes on, those relationships will grow just as strong.”

Phillips also keeps in contact with Bills head coach Sean McDermott. “I proposed to Shay, my longtime girlfriend since I was in high school, on Friday night of NFL draft weekend and Sean called me Saturday morning during draft hours. I thought that was a pretty cool move… That spoke volumes. The draft was going on and I got a call from Sean.”

Several Vikings/Bills Reunions Will Take Place in Week 10

In addition to Phillips’ return, there are several reunions taking place in Orchard Park on Sunday, November 13. Not only will it mark the first time Bills star wide receiver Stefon Diggs will face his former team since he was traded in 2020, but there’s a strong likelihood that he’ll take the field with his former Vikings quarterback, Case Keenum.

Week 10 almost marks the first time that Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook will play against his litter brother, Bills rookie James Cook. Dalvin said earlier this week, “I never had the opportunity to be in this predicament. But one of the best to be in. It’s a fun time for my family. But it’s something that I will remember forever. Just taking it all in — a lot of emotions Sunday.”

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