The NFL hasn’t seen Victor Cruz for a long time.
It was Oct 12 2014 in fact when we last saw him in a Giants jersey. He went down with a knee injury in Philly; a patellar tendon tear to be precise. It was a game his team lost 27-0.
If reports are to be believed, then this wideout who was once considered to be the best slot receiver in the league, is coming back. Cruz took part in practice this week, and he’s looking good.
“[Eli] understands that his year the Giants staff has offensively done some great things to put some players around him to make things happen”
– Victor Cruz on the 5thDownUK pod last month
A groin injury hampered the start of training camp this summer, but you’d be forgiven if you thought it was deja-vu, because we were being told about his imminent return all last summer. This time though it’s for real, and there’s a good chance we’ll see him line up against the Jets this weekend.
Last month, KB & Dubs caught up with Cruz in London when recording the 5thDownUK podcast. He said “It’s been too long, I’ve missed me”.
When asked if he’s being overly optimistic, like last year, he boldly replied, “I’ll definitely be out there playing, I’m excited to get back out there. It’s been a long time coming (to get to 100%) but I’m feeling good, I’m back, I’m running around. This year is going to be a special one.”
Giants fans will be hoping it’s as special as his breakout year in 2011, when Cruz burst onto the scene as an undrafted free agent to make 82 receptions for over 1,500 yards, and an impressive nine touchdowns (not to mention grabbing a Super Bowl ring in the process).
The 2016 Victor Cruz is looking sharp. It’s been a long road to recovery for #80 and he’s grown off the field. The 29 year old told us about his philosophical approach to rehab: “most people think that playing games and making routes is the biggest thing, but the biggest thing for me is being in the locker room, on the bus on the way to the game, being in the hotel the day before. Those are the things that you miss and those are the things that I want to get back”
When asked about what kept him motivated to get fit, he said: “Seeing my daughter grow, and seeing my mom. Everyone that’s a part of my fan base and a part of my family. I just want them to see me back out there, so that they can cheer me on and gloat to their friends, which I know they love to do. Allowing my friends and family to be a part of something special with me is all that matters”
He admitted that if it wasn’t for his family, and the Giants staff pushing him, he wouldn’t be back at 100%. Things have changed on and off the field since he last played; gone is the head coach who selected him. There’s also a new superstar in the team, and Cruz has nothing but praise for his fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr: “he’s great, he’s full of energy and always trying to put a smile on people’s faces, joking and making us laugh. He’s a good dude”
Expectations are high amongst Giants fans for this coming season. Eli Manning certainly has some weapons to work with in 2016 and Cruz knows that; “it’s indicative of how good we can be this year. If it’s all on him (Beckham) then I can do some great things, likewise if it’s on me he can do some great things. And then if it’s all on both of us then Sterling Shepard can do some great things too”
For all the changes since his injury, Cruz knows there is still one constant in his offense – his QB: “Eli should be ready for us, which I know he is. He understands that his year the Giants staff has offensively done some great things to put some players around him to make things happen”
It’s a new season, and a new start in New York. Tom Coughlin was fired in January after the Giants finished a disappointing third in the NFC East, with Ben McAdoo ascending to the top role from Offensive Coordinator. We asked Cruz whether much had changed? “It’s definitely a fresh start and new philosophies with the new coach. He’s been with us the past two years, so from a philosophy standpoint there’s nothing new offensively although the defense has to get to know a new person, a new guy telling them what he expects from us”
It’ll be a welcome sight for football fans if Victor Cruz takes to the field this weekend. It’s been a long road to recovery for the once-explosive receiver. We’re yet to see what he and a more experienced Beckham can do together on a football field; we can just imagine the damage they can cause if everything clicks with Eli.
Cruz believes they can go all the way; “our expectations every year is to win the Super Bowl. To do that we have to win the division. We’re in a division that anyone can win so we have to make sure that we’re in a position to take it.”