For two years it was the only line of questioning anyone wanted to ask Victor Cruz.
How are you? How are you feeling? What are you able to do?
For the past seven weeks, though, those questions have mostly gone away. Now it takes something like the double-patellar injury to Texans lineman Derek Newton or the chance to catch a collective breath at the bye week for anyone to wonder how Victor Cruz is doing since resuming a career that seemed to be in jeopardy of ending not very long ago.
“When you ask me about it now it reminds me,” Cruz said on Tuesday, referring to that time when his knee and his calf were the only things people wanted to know about. “It feels good to talk to you guys [in the media] and not have to have you say: ‘How far along are you now?’ It feels good. Now my goal is to continue that trend, continue to stay positive, continue to take care of my body so I can continue to make these strides.”
Cruz has not appeared on the injury report since he suffered a strained groin in the preseason. He’s played seven games and caught 24 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown. Compare that to the six games he appeared in the early part of the 2014 season, before tearing his patellar tendon against the Eagles on Oct. 12, and there’s a bit of a dip. He had 23 catches for 337 yards and a touchdown at that point. But he also had no Odell Beckham Jr. and no Sterling Shepard to help carry the receiving load, which he does now.
Some believed Cruz would never be able to recover from the torn patellar tendon. Cruz rehabbed the knee, but then missed all of 2015 with a calf injury that eventually required surgery. This summer, there were many who thought he would never again play in the NFL, especially after he missed several weeks with the groin injury.
All along, Cruz said he believed he would return. Eyes rolled. They were all wrong. Now, he’s Victor the Vindicated.
“A lot of people in this room wrote me off,” he said of the reporters surrounding him, “so it feels good to talk to you guys and have different questions than the ones you would have had if this didn’t happen. Obviously that vindication feels good.”
So too, Cruz said, does his knee and calf. He said there has not been a point this season when he felt as if he had lost a step, couldn’t physically make a play he wanted to, or been otherwise hampered by his surgeries.
“I’m still making the moves that I like to make, that I can make, and I’m still catching the ball whenever I can and getting myself open, getting that separation,” he said. “Obviously as a competitor do you want some plays back? Absolutely. Do you want to do something else, make another move or catch the ball you didn’t catch? Absolutely. But for the most part I feel like I’m 100 percent hitting my stride.”
His teammates notice that too.
“You have friends on the outside always asking about him and I tell them that he’s right where he wants to be,” Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He knows what he can do and I’ve seen it. I’ve played against him, I’ve watched him practice. He’s still got that sudden ch-ch-ch off the ball, movement . . . He’s got a little ball in him so you know you’re going to get heart out of him every time he steps on the field.”
Cruz’s injury questions may be in the past, but his comeback, as far as he is concerned, is not over.
“It means nothing if I don’t play the rest of the season,” he said. “I feel like every week I line up and suit up I’ve proven the doubters wrong, and every time I make a play or catch a football or whatever the case may be I feel like I’m proving people wrong. I just want to continue that . . . It’s just a matter of taking care of my body so I can continue to stay this way and continue to feel good for Weeks 10 and 11 and 12 and not just the first seven.”