Victor Cruz prepared for role as one of Giants' leaders

Local Little League players were treated to a tour of Citi Field on June 11, 2014, and they were surprised by appearances by the Giants' Victor Cruz, and the Mets' Jon Niese and Daniel Murphy. (Credit: Newsday / Tara Conry)

A year after missing the team's offseason workouts during contract negotiations, Victor Cruz said he is thrilled to be taking part in OTAs this year.

"I'm extremely happy,'' the wide receiver said on Wednesday at CitiField where he was speaking to (and salsa-dancing with) some Long Island Little Leaguers during a Frosted Flakes event. "I'm finally at a point where I can relax and play the game and get better as a player and as an individual, as a teammate, as a leader. It's been a lot of fun. These OTAs have been a lot of fun just building a rapport with my receivers, getting to know my teammates more. I'm really just having some fun out there this time.''

The importance of having Cruz with the team this offseason is immeasurable since he has become the team's top target. Hakeem Nicks, who for the last few seasons was projected as the No. 1 receiver -- even if he didn't live up to that mantle -- left in free agency. Now the receivers are Cruz's Crew.

"People are telling me I'm the vet and this and that and I'm like 'My fifth year in and I'm already getting the V word?' '' Cruz said. "But it's pretty cool and it's something that comes along with the territory. You have to own it and be able to help others.''

There has even been talk that Cruz could be a captain for the 2014 Giants. Murmurs of that began after he answered a question about it at an event with Michael Strahan and Harry Carson in early May. Cruz said he isn't actively campaigning for the job.

"It would have been a question I would have asked Strahan or Harry Carson off the cuff anyway,'' he said. "I'm just going to continue to be myself and if the team or the coaches or whoever picks it picks me, that'll be fine.''

Captain or not, Cruz seems intent on heading into this season in true Benjamin Franklin fashion: healthy, wealthy and wise.

"I have to fulfill the moment now,'' he said of being the elder statesman among receivers. "I have to buy into the program, buy into what I am right now, and really just soak it in and take advantage of it. Now that the moment is here for me to be the leader and be the guy to help everybody come along, I have to own it and fulfill the moment.''

Cruz: 'Cool' to see Parcells.

The Giants hear from a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach every day. On Tuesday, they heard from a different one. Bill Parcells, who brought the first of four Lombardi Trophies to the franchise, stopped by practice and spoke to the team after the workout.

"It was dope, man,'' Cruz said of the unexpected attendeee. "It was cool to see him. I've met him on the field briefly but never in that kind of setting to hear what he has to say and talk to him.''

Cruz said Parcells delivered a typical Tuna-like message that was made all the more poignant by his recent enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Giants will be at this year's enshrinement ceremony to honor Michael Strahan and then play the Bills in the preseason opener.

"Just his presence alone, what he brings to the table, it was pretty inspirational to see him and have him there,'' Cruz said. "He still brings the fire. He still has it. It's pretty cool to see.''

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