Sterling Shepard believes he will be able to play with Victor Cruz this season, not replace him.
The Giants rookie receiver who was drafted in the second round and immediately billed by many as “a younger Cruz” told Newsday he is looking forward to getting on the field with a player who helped shape his game.
Cruz’s future remains murky because of a groin injury that has cost him more than a week of practices.
“I would love to play with him,” Shepard said on Wednesday. “When I first got drafted here, those were two guys that I looked up to, him and Odell [Beckham Jr.]. I’d love to be on the field with him and I will be on the field with him.
“I feel like he’ll be back 100 percent and ready to go.”
Not everyone is as optimistic. Cruz has missed almost two full years of football with knee and calf injuries and is now missing critical on-field reps that would allow the Giants to gauge his readiness to play this season.
The Giants envisioned a dynamic offense that included the three healthy receivers. So far throughout training camp, having the trio of Cruz, Beckham and Shepard together in a single formation has been a rarity.
Shepard was dealing with his own groin issue, having come out of Friday’s preseason opener with soreness. On Wednesday, though, he was a full participant at full speed and said he feels ready to play on Saturday against the Bills.
Shepard said Cruz has been helpful to him and has been a constant presence in his ear when they watch others on the team practice.
“He’s telling me different looks and what I can do against those looks,” Shepard said. “He’s still helping me in the mental aspect of it, he’s just not able right now to go out there and show me.”
Shepard believes that will happen soon.
“He knows his body the best,” the rookie said. “Whatever he has to do is what he needs to do to get back on the field. I feel like he’s coming along. He’s doing a lot better, he says, so we’ll see how it goes.”