(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
The Giants Victor Cruz say something very encouraging on Monday, when he said, “I’m convinced I’m playing Sunday.”
Cruz has not played in a game since he suffered a serious knee injury he suffered on October 12, 2014 in Philadelphia. That cost him the rest of last season, and then he strained his calf in training camp, which cost him the first three games of this season.
The Giants’ offense needs him desperately, as it has been a struggle for them to find the end zone, with Odell Beckham the only weapon at wide receiver.
Beckham and Cruz would be the best combination at that position in the NFC East, if not the whole conference. They are both electrifying players that live for the big moment.
Cruz mentioned Beckham in his comments on how he feels, saying, “I feel good. I’m excited to be out there, excited to run some routes again today. The calf felt great, and glad Odell was with me out there today. It was fun, yeah.”
It’s been almost a year to the day since he played in a game. On if this is an emotional time for him, Cruz said, “Yeah, a little bit. Even driving in today, I was kind of like, ‘Man, I’m driving in and I’m actually going to be putting a helmet on.’ This is around the same time it all happened last year. It was a little emotional. I can’t lie, there might be some emotions spread out there on the field Sunday as well.”
On his expectations for his first time coming back, Cruz said, “I just want to go out there, whatever the coaching staff is asking of me, just get that done. If they want me to come in on third down situations or however they want to get me involved, I just want to go in there, be myself, catch everything, run after the catch and just play well. I want to go out there and leave that game knowing that I played well and this is a stepping stone for the rest of the season.”
Giants Head Coach Tom Coughin said that Cruz has to pass the test of getting through practice Wednesday to be able to be cleared for Sunday.
On passing this and other tests, Cruz said, “I think to him it’s just going through a full practice, going through the individual drills, going through the seven-on-seven’s, going through the team activities—going through that and coming out unscathed and coming out without much pain or anything like that. I think that’s the next step, I think that’s what Coach is looking for, and so am I. I’m excited to get back in the team setting. I know it’s us, but it’s still somewhat of a competition out there and you get to feel exactly how you match up from being down for a couple weeks.”
While Wednesday is important, Cruz said Thursday could be just as important. “Potentially yeah, because that’s our longer day, third down, things like that. But yeah, definitely it’ll be important. But for me, every day is important, even these offs days when I come in and get treatment and try to stay a step ahead of the recovery process. That day is important for me as well,” said Cruz.
Coughlin said of watching Cruz’s knee in practice, “Well, let’s just get him—the knee was progressing very well. The incident is the calf, so let’s get through both of them. The calf is the issue right now.”
Cruz said of his his knee feels, “The knee felt great. I spent a lot of time in here working on it, getting it stronger throughout the time I wasn’t on the practice field. And it feels good, man, I’m just happy everything started to click.”
On is he needs to see something, feel something for his knee, Cruz said, “No, not exactly. I think I crossed that hurdle once I started to run routes and know that my knee feels good and know that I can run routes again. I think it’s just a matter of the emotions and the anxieties and the adrenaline, that’s what I have to get used to again. I haven’t felt that in a little while. But everything else just feels good, I’m just ready to get my first catch out of the way so I can get going.”
Coughlin said of the boost Cruz will be for their offense, “If he practices and practices well, he’ll be a good lift for us.”
On if there been things Coughlin hasn’t been able to do in his offense because Cruz wasn’t there, he said, “I don’t know if that’s the way I’d put it. I think that he will certainly add something to what we are doing and he’ll open the door for some new thoughts. Yeah, sure.”
Cruz said of feeling if there’s anything the offense hasn’t been able to do without him and that he could be able to fill a void, “In any offense, there’s always places to fill and things to do well. I think from a slot receiver position, there’s definitely some holes there that I can hopefully, God willing, fill and be the same player of old, and do some things in that area. Other than that, I think Rueben played well last game, he’s feeling well. Odell is being Odell, so I think from a receiving standpoint, we’re just fine, it’s just adding more weapons and adding more people for Eli to be comfortable with is always good.”
Cruz said of being physically limited at all in what he can do and if there are any limitations, “No, not by myself at least. I think the training staff kind of wants me to pace it to not just go from 0 to 100. Just kind of take it and kind of go incremental throughout the week and get myself ready to play.”
Cruz had Week One targeted for months as his return date. On if there was an emotional letdown when he wasn’t able to get on the field, “Of course. Obviously when you battle through that rehab and battle through that process and you set the target for Week One and it doesn’t happen, it’s a little emotional. But you’ve just got to understand it’s a long season and you want to come back and be 100 percent when this team is ready and this team needs me to be 100 percent. I didn’t want to go out there and be kind of 50-50 and not really be myself. So I wanted to be 100 percent and that’s where we’re at.”
On if it’s more important that he feels 100 percent rather than playing this coming week in Buffalo, “Exactly. So I just want to be 100 percent in order to play. I don’t want to go out there and be 60 percent, that can lead to more injury, that can lead to so many different things. You just don’t want that. I just want to be 100 percent in my mind and the training staff as well, and then we’ll go from there.”
On what was it like on game day the past three weeks for him, Cruz said, “Brutal, because I’m not playing. The first two weeks weren’t fun because of how we lost, and last week because I knew there was potential for me to come back in Week Four. The anxiety was building up. But I’m happy we got that victory, happy we played well as a team, so we have something to kind of build off of. I feel good.”
The big question is, will his salsa touchdown dance change at all? Cruz said, “It’s the same, it’s the same. I’m not changing up anything. Will there be tears of some sort? Maybe. I’m not going to confirm nor deny that. I’m very macho when I talk to you guys. But we’ll see, it’s definitely going to be an emotional game. It’s definitely going to be a fun game. I plan on just having fun and catching everything that goes my way, and hopefully come out with a win.”