First, the Giants termed the knee condition that limited Kenny Phillips in practice as "tired and sore." But Friday, Tom Coughlin let the real tabby out of the sack when, after Phillips missed the entire practice save warmups, he said the safety had a sprained left MCL and is questionable.
None of that was encouraging news for a defense that must face the Texans and their incredible running back Arian Foster without linebacker Keith Bulluck. With Phillips a gametime decision, the Giants could be left with only two healthy safeties in Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, and an untested, inexperienced rookie in former practice squad cornerback Brian Jackson, who has never played safety.
There's a good chance Jackson may never see the field, especially if the Giants decide to play straight 4-3 and leave Bulluck's replacement, Clint Sintim, in there much of the time. But because of the Texans' only slightly less scary passing attack that features Matt Schaub throwing to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter (Jacoby Jones is doubtful with a calf injury), the Giants could go with their three-safety alignment occasionally. And that means Jackson will have to step up under the toughest of circumstances.
Phillips' knee situation is certainly reason for long-term concern, too. Though it is not related to the arthritic condition that prompted his microfracture surgery after two games last year, there can be no doubt that another problem in the same knee would not bode well. And the fact is, Phillips is the Giants' hardest-hitting safety and a terror on run support.
Neither Rolle nor Grant, and certainly not Jackson, offer the physicality the Giants would need to contain the tough but quick Foster.
In the work he did take this week, Phillips practiced with a brace part of the time and said it felt comfortable. But the fact is, braces limit mobility, something the Giants can ill-afford in their secondary this week.
Thus, they may have to sit Phillips and hope Jackson, a boundary cornerback who played a lot of run support off the end at Oklahoma, can handle his new spot.
Phillips said he hurt the knee in the Bears game, though he started limiting his practice workload last week after the Titans game. Such are the vagaries of how the Giants treat injury information.
In other injury news, Bulluck was ruled out of his second straight game Thursday with a case of turf toe. Bulluck said it has been improving "at a turtle's pace," after a new treatment, but that's not nearly fast enough to suit him.
"All treatment is the same to me," Bulluck said. "It's not getting me on the field, so to me it's not better."
RB Ahmad Bradshaw did practice after missing the first two days with a sprained right ankle and said he fully expects to play despite his questionable status.
CB Terrell Thomas returned to practice after missing Thursday with a hamstring problem and is questionable. DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck), FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring), and C Shaun O'Hara (Achilles/ankle) are out.
DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) and C Adam Koets (knee) are probable.