PHILADELPHIA - Mathias Kiwanuka didn't know how bad it was. He saw Victor Cruz carted off, heard him screaming, watched the tears roll down the wide receiver's face. But it wasn't until he was told the extent of the injury in the locker room after the Giants' 27-0 loss to the Eagles Sunday night that the enormity of the situation hit him.
A torn patellar tendon.
Said Kiwanuka, "That's about as bad as it gets."
It is. Surgery to repair the injury cannot be done arthroscopically like an ACL reconstruction. That means it requires a longer healing process. And a longer rehab. And, well, less of a chance of a full recovery.
Which is why Kiwanuka was talking about Cruz in the past tense, in about as close to a eulogy as can be given after a game.
"I was here in the beginning when he was a guy struggling to make the team and I've seen the progression, I've seen how hard he's worked," Kiwanuka said of Cruz, who made his initial splash in the NFL as a regular-season star -- and unveiled the original salsa dance -- in 2011 on the same Lincoln Financial Field turf he was carted from Sunday night.
"I don't think there are many men who have come into the room and worked as hard as he has and been as humble as he has at the same time. We're praying for him."
Other Giants spoke about how hard it is to stomach losing such a player for the season.
"It was tough to watch him get carted off," fellow receiver (and potential replacement) Odell Beckham Jr. said. "I ran over and he's in the corner, I just knew something wasn't right. He was in a lot of pain. As hard as it was, you have to move on and go to the next play. But it's still in the back of your mind throughout the entire game."
"You never want to see a player go down," Eli Manning said. "That's kind of the tough part about this game is injuries, especially when guys are down for a long time and in pain. You don't like to see that. Especially a buddy of mine and guy who, we've been through a lot together."
Cruz's injury, like so much of his career, took place on the big stage. It happened during a Sunday night game for the whole country to see. Each tear running down his face as he was being carted off the field was shown to America in high-def drama.
Not everyone gets such a send-off.
"The sad thing about this game is that almost every week, somebody's season is over," Kiwanuka said. "We don't express it or cover it as much. A lot of times you see a guy go down on the side of the field, you go to commercial, you come back. But for us, that's a member of our team that is gone, whether it's an undrafted free agent running under a kickoff or he is one of the captains of our team. We are still affected by it.
"We have to put the incident -- not him, he'll always be a member of this team -- but we have to put the incident behind us in a game situation and be able to rise up and play for him. When a guy goes down, you want to at least go out with your best effort so you can come back with a win for that guy. We didn't do that."
And that hurt a lot, too.