EAGAN, Minn. — Harrison Phillips can still picture key moments from his first preseason game with the Buffalo Bills, including getting a sack and playing against his former college teammate Christian McCaffrey.
On Sunday, he'll be walking down the tunnel at Allegiant Stadium with the Minnesota Vikings for their preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. And while Phillips is entering his fifth NFL season, he's just as excited as he was as a rookie.
Phillips and first-round pick Lewis Cine spoke with Twin Cities media members Friday afternoon. Phillips said he hopes the young players will soak it all in when they take the field for the first time.
"I had watery eyes, and I hope a lot of the young guys have that same experience. And then, it's a harsh pill to swallow, but we've got 90 players on this team and a handful of them won't ever get another opportunity," Phillips said. "So to put on an NFL uniform, to put on an NFL helmet, to go into an NFL stadium and play in a preseason game might be the highest level of achievement that they have in their football career.
"So I absolutely love seeing any type of big play, celebrating, I'm all about it," Phillips continued. "I want to them to be as excited as they can, because you have to smell the roses while you're here, and I really do pray for all our young players and guys battling for roster spots that they get to go be their best selves and that we all stay healthy."
In the secondary, Cine is getting ready for his first game in an NFL uniform. It will be his first since helping Georgia defeat Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game. The stakes are lower when it comes to the results not counting, but he's looking forward to showing what he can do in his first NFL action.
"Just show people I'm Lew. Just play, ball out and have fun," Cine said. "I don't really have to do too much out of the ordinary that I don't do out here. Trust my training and trust my preparation. Take care of business, basically."
Both Phillips and Cine are part of a defense that is incorporating a new scheme, with Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell bringing a 3-4 base package with him to Minnesota.
"Yeah, I think picking up the playbook is a lot easier than the techniques, kind of like the 1,000-hour rule, or 10,000 times on task," Phillips said. "Obviously I know what the assignments are supposed to be and understand our playbook, but just the change in technique from a 4-3, attacking to more of this 3-4, it does attack more snaps and more snaps.
"That's why I'm excited for the preseason. I'm excited for how early we still are in training camp," he added. "We've got, what 20-some, 30-some days until we actually have to play a game, so I'm thankful for the opportunity we get to come out and work our craft every day."
Phillips added they're also trying to build their chemistry between the defensive front and linebackers during training camp.
"We're working together really well. I think where we're trying to grow and our chemistry is working with the other room, which is the outside linebackers, so they're communicating really well together. We're communicating really well together," Phillips said. "We need to blend their room and our room, and since we're still in training camp, we haven't really done a lot of game planning.
"We'll all meet as a full front unit with them," he added. "We haven't done those meetings yet and gone over our stunts and stuff, because we're keeping everything very vanilla here as we go. So that's something that we'll want to grow."
Cine said there's definitely a learning curve when it comes to the playbook, but he is continuing to test the limits and see where his game will take him.
"I think camp has gone real well for me. In terms of learning the Xs and Os, there will always be a learning curve there. Still learning, keep learning day in and day out," Cine said. "But I've showed coaches, the team, the GM, what I can bring to the table, what I can do.
"It's like when you get a new toy. You want to play with it, see all it can do. That was kind of like how I was with the coaches," Cine added. "But I think they're real comfortable with what they have and what they've seen. Real excited for what's to come."