For the eighth year in a row, Eli Manning served as the celebrity chairman for the March of Dimes March for Babies in New York City. Last year, though, it wasn't much of a march. Manning was just coming off surgery to repair his injured ankle and he was limited to taking just the first few steps of the annual event.
"I was here in spirit," Manning said Sunday morning.
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This year, though, he was able to do the complete walk, and he even brought his daughter Ava to join him. It's one of the many things Manning is able to do physically that he was not able to a year ago, whether it be football or philanthropy.
The Giants quarterback said being able to participate in drills and on-field portions of the offseason program should help him and the second-year offense improve in 2015.
"I see a lot of room for improvement," Manning said. "Last year at this time in April and May I wasn't able to do a lot of the drills, a lot of the footwork stuff because of the injury. I'm excited about having a spring to rep a lot of these things. This is the time where you can really get some of the mechanical parts of the offense down and really rep the small things and get that being perfect. I'm looking forward to getting that work under the new system.
"Last year I got in later and we were already into the plays and it was about learning what to do," Manning continued. "Now it's kind of putting everything together."
Manning may be able to participate in the drills, but one of his key targets is not. Victor Cruz is still rehabbing from surgery on a torn patellar tendon and has been very limited in what he's been able to do this spring. Manning said that the offensive players have been watching cut-ups of last year, though, and marveling at how the old Cruz used to play.
"You just hope he'll be able to come back," Manning said. "You see some of the plays, the catches and the stops real quick, making that first guy miss, some of the cuts, and you hope he'll be able to do those things again. I think you hope for the best and he can make a full recovery. But we're going to be smart with him, make sure he comes back on his own time, and when he's ready get in there and be right back in the mix."
Manning pushed himself to be on the field for OTAs and minicamps last year. Cruz likely will not be on the field with the team until sometime in training camp.
"It's just a process, and he's going through it," Manning said. "It's been different, it's been difficult not being out there with the guys and not being able to do everything that he's normally been able to do. But he's kept his spirits up and you can see he's around the guys a little bit more and you're seeing that laugh come back. I know he's feeling good and excited to get back in the action."