It wasn't long ago that Victor Cruz was counting down the days to the start of the season in anticipation of his return. Now he's keeping an eye on the end of the season, which is looming with each passing day he spends sidelined.

"I'd be wrong to sit here and tell you I have plenty of time because it's Week 9 in the season," Cruz said on Thursday. "I missed a good chunk of time already. I just want to get out there and be 100 percent and play. I just want to play this game again and help my team win, help my team get over the hump and be a voice of this team not only in the locker room but in the games and be out there with them. Lord knows I miss it with every ounce of my body."

Cruz took a step toward that on Thursday, running for the first time since his aborted practice on Sept. 30. He did some straight-line jogging to test the calf strain that has sidelined him since the middle of August.

"Even if it was just a light jog and picking up a little speed, it was good to be out there and feel like an athlete who can run again," he said.

Cruz said the MRIs on his calf have been clean. He said it now is just a matter of physically pushing himself a bit more each day. Jogging will become running, which will become cutting, which will evolve into practicing.

And playing? There still is no timetable for that, though there does seem to be a natural target.

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"If I had to pick a time, after the bye obviously looks like a promising date," Cruz said of the Nov. 29 game at Washington in Week 12. "But the doctors haven't said that, no one has told that to me. We're just one day at a time."

And each of those days pushed him one day closer to not playing this season.

"I think God is testing me to see just how much I can take, just how much I'm willing to put this game on the line for my own sake," Cruz said. "To see how much I can deal with and how much I can handle mentally. I'm just being calm, being reserved, and coming through with that challenge and tackle everything as it comes."