NASHVILLE – Kyle Philips looked like a star in the making before the start of his rookie season.
A fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Titans, the shifty receiver from UCLA turned heads during offseason workouts. When training camp began, he picked up where he left off, winning one-on-ones against teammates, and also against veteran DBs in work against the Buccaneers and Cardinals.
When the Titans kicked off the regular season against the Giants, Philips provided fans even more reasons to be optimistic – he led the team with six receptions for 66 yards, and he also added four punt returns for 62 yards and a 15.5-yard average.
A day after the 2022 season, however, Philips looked back at his rookie year and shook his head.
Philips knows his season ended too soon, and he didn't do enough when it really mattered.
It has him motivated to do more moving forward.
"Disappointing," Philips said of his first NFL season. "Obviously I wanted to come in here and contribute more to the team, but injuries happened, and it was unfortunate. I couldn't really control it. Overall, I would say I was disappointed because I would have liked to have helped more and contributed to this team winning more games."
Philips, however, said he did build some confidence by what he was able to early, before shoulder and hamstring injuries derailed his season and kept him out of 13 of the team's 17 games.
"I know I can play in this league, and play at this level," Philips said. "I just know I left a lot out there this year, which gives me a lot of motivation coming into the offseason to come back and have a great season (in 2023).
"It was awful having to watch (so much as a rookie). You are with your teammates every day in the offseason, going through hell in the heat, going through training camp. You want to go to battle with your teammates, so to have to sit there and watch your teammates play and not being able to contribute, it eats away at you. But you just have to use it as motivation to get better."
Philips has plans to get better – and bigger – for his second season.
But first, he looked back for a moment.
The momentum Philips generated leading up to the season was halted when he suffered a shoulder injury in the regular season opener against the Giants at Nissan Stadium. Philips was injured while being tackled on the first punt return of the game, which went for 46 yards. Philips said he landed weird on the shoulder, and he heard a "pop". Philips finished the game, and then had tests on the shoulder after the contest. He credited the team's training staff for getting him in a position to continue playing.
Philips played the following week in Buffalo, but he was held to just one catch for five yards in that contest, when he also muffed a punt.
After being inactive for Week 3, he played in back-to-back games against the Colts and Redskins, but he had limited opportunities, and success.
Just when it appeared Philips was on the verge of getting healthy, he suffered a hamstring injury in a Friday practice before the October 23 contest vs the Colts. Philips was among the team's inactives for that game, and not long after was placed on Injured Reserve.
Philips never played again. The final numbers for his rookie season: eight catches for 78 yards.
"It was heartbreaking," Philips said of the hamstring injury. "I was getting back in the flow, my shoulder wasn't bothering me too much, I felt comfortable. I was really excited about the gameplan that week, and being able to help. It was definitely unfortunate, but looking back at it now, maybe it ends up being good for me in my young career to sit back and take those punches and learn from it all."
Among the punches: two muffed punts.
"I had two muffs, and I think that's the most I've had in my career playing football – or even at UCLA," Philips said. "It's never happened to me before, but I took it on the chin. Now I am just going to work this offseason, really getting on the JUGS and doing everything I can to make sure that never happens again."
Philips said he'll work to get as healthy as possible before turning all his attention to training, and getting his body ready for Year 2.
Philips plans to train in San Diego, in addition to working with teammates in Nashville when their schedules align.
The 5-foot-11 Philips said he plans to add some weight to his frame to help him with his durability.
"I want to be around 190 to 195 (pounds)," said Philips, who started his final season at UCLA at 193 pounds but was in the "low 180s" at the start of his rookie season in Tennessee. "I want to come in here feeling good, feeling healthy, durable, fast, explosive.
"My main focus is getting big, staying explosive and getting a little more explosive. It's a man's league, and I am definitely not on the bigger side of the scale when it comes to that. So, I need to put some more muscle on me and be more durable for the season and just stay healthy."
Philips said he's confident about what's in store for his NFL career.
He's already looking forward to 2023.
"Watching other guys, and seeing how they prepared and how hard they worked every day, going to practice and playing in these games," Philips said of his teammates. "Watching them really motivated me for this offseason to go full speed into it and come back better than ever.
"I just need to go into the offseason, get healthy, put some weight on and contribute more to this team."