Victor Cruz walked into his closet on Thursday morning -- the day he had been anticipating and aiming toward for almost 10 months -- and said there was one article of clothing that was "just kind of glowing."
It was a red Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, but not the traditional 23. No, this was the 45 jersey, the one Jordan wore when he first returned to the NBA after his brief retirement.
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"I just grabbed it and put it on," Cruz said. "Felt like there was a little symbolism for today. The Return was definitely on my mind. When Jordan came back wearing the 4-5, he wasn't playing with people. So that's kind of the symbolism."
Cruz has completed the first major step in his own return. He was cleared to participate in training camp, a goal of his since he tore his patellar tendon last October. He participated in the team's condition assessment by running a half dozen 100-yard sprints and expects to be on the field Friday when the team begins practicing.
"I'm sure we'll have to limit and build him up," coach Tom Coughlin said. "But he'll be out there."
Cruz said he's at 93 percent, facetiously putting a numeric value on his recovery as he has throughout the long and arduous process. He said the goal is to be at 100 on Sept. 13, when the Giants open against the Cowboys.
"This was an important day," Cruz said. "[Friday] is obviously another obstacle getting out there on the field, doing some routes, and being part of the team again. I'm excited, man. I've been counting down this time from 10 months ago and I'm excited to get back out there."
The Giants are looking forward to it as well. Cornerback Prince Amukamara got a sneak peek at Cruz when they ran into each other at a workout in Arizona a few weeks ago. Amukamara said Cruz looked faster than he was before the injury.
"I think he's pretty spot on," Cruz said with a smile. "The biggest thing for me wasn't just speed, it was how fast I can get in and out of those cuts. That felt really sharp and really crisp."
Cruz wasn't the only wide receiver coming off an injury that the Giants had concerns about. Odell Beckham Jr. missed most of the spring workouts with a sore hamstring, and there was some concern that he might not be ready for the start of camp. Beckham, though, participated in the conditioning assessment and will be on the field Friday as well (Coughlin said Beckham's reps will be monitored along with Cruz's).
For Cruz, clearing the hurdle of the first day of training camp was much more significant.
"If you would have told me (after the surgery and early rehab process) that nine months from that time I'd be playing and practicing and feeling really good about myself, I probably wouldn't have believed you," he said. "But I knew the work I was putting in, I knew I'd get to this point. I just didn't know when."