This summer is a big one for inside linebacker Jason Phillips.
The 2009 fifth-round pick didn't get to show the Ravens' coaches much last year; he was limited throughout OTAs and training camp because of a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered during the Scouting Combine, and was eventually placed on Injured Reserve, ending his season.
A year later, Phillips is finally back near full strength. He participated in the Ravens' recent OTAs, and says despite some early apprehension about how his knee would hold up, he was pleased with the results of the minicamps.
"Going into this, I was a little nervous," Phillips said, "but after getting a couple practices under my belt and moving around on it in actual football situations where I'm actually on the field going against an offense, I feel pretty good. I've cut off of [the knee], I've ran on it for the last year, so pretty sure I'm straight on it."
"I think we're seeing a healthy Jason Phillips for the first time," head coach John Harbaugh said early in minicamps. "You know, last year he was really fighting the knee. He wasn't even here at this time last year. He's quick and slippery and a good football player."
The TCU product was considered a highly-rated prospect prior to his knee injury because of his intensity, tackling ability and football smarts. Now, Phillips will head into next month's training camp looking to prove that he's worth keeping around.
The Ravens have plenty of experienced inside linebackers on the roster (Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Jameel McClain), so Phillips knows he will need to have a solid camp to crack the roster.
"As far as what I've got to do to make it here, we're real deep at linebacker, so I'm just going to have to come in and really impress," Phillips said. "We've got a lot of guys on this team that can play so it's going to be my job to get in great shape and come into camp and really show out."
While he is clearly aware of the battle he has ahead of him when it comes to earning a spot on the Ravens' 53-man roster, Phillips is doing his best to keep from playing the so-called "numbers game".
"You can't count spots," he said. "This is the NFL; anywhere you go there's going to be players like that, so you just have to come in with the right mindset. Just do your thing, don't try to push too hard.
"Just do what you've got to do to make yourself as much a part of this team as possible. Then, whatever happens, happens."