Somewhat lost among the flurry of roster moves and potential acquisitions of the past few days was the end of a story line that had been hovering over Giants training camp all summer. Wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was coming back from serious knee and calf injuries and was sidelined for almost two weeks this preseason with a groin injury, actually made the team.
Given that Cruz is such a recognizable name, it might not seem like a huge deal, but there was a time late last month when his future with the team — in the NFL, even — appeared to be in doubt. Plenty of folks opined that he was washed up, that he’d never play again, that the Giants were wasting their time nursing him through yet another injury.
But there he was Monday, standing in front of his locker, getting ready for his first regular-season game since October 2014.
“To be in a position to go out there and play some football again, it’s an amazing feeling,” Cruz said. “I’m kind of cherishing the moments right now.”
There was one moment, however, that Cruz let slip by without much fanfare. It came Saturday, when the Giants announced their cuts and he officially made the team. There was no salsa dance for him then. He was too busy hosting a pool party for his daughter, Kennedy, who had just learned how to swim.
“That was my celebration,” he said.
It’s because Cruz and the Giants don’t see him being among the 53 players on the roster as the end of the story; they view it as the beginning.
“I’m excited for Victor because of everything he’s gone through,” Eli Manning said. “Just as a friend, as a teammate, excited to have him back in the lineup, and I know he’ll be able to make some plays for us.”
Cruz said he’s healthy and fit enough to do that, and also to play a full game Sunday if that’s what the Giants want. He admitted that he will have “some jitters” before the game. He said he’ll talk to his mother and others, including his high school coach, quite a bit this week for guidance on how to control his bubbling emotions.
“I have a tendency to think too much, to overthink,” he said. “They can settle me down a little bit, especially in a scenario like this.”
Many of those trusted voices will be there in Dallas on Sunday to watch the culmination of the comeback. Even with all of that mental prep, though, Cruz expects some of his feelings to leak out.
“Being gone for roughly two years, it’s going to be an emotional time for me when I go out there, an exhilarating time, an exciting time,” he said. “But a time where I have to look back and put this all in perspective with where I came from. To be here again is a blessing.”
The circumstances only add to the narrative.
“This one, Week 1, when it matters, against the Dallas Cowboys,” he said, “it’s definitely going to be one for the books.”
Cruz has looked sharp in practice, but he’s played in only two preseason games and caught only one pass. He said he still wants to have a welcome-back moment on the field in which he makes a play and realizes he’s still got it.
“My first touchdown or that first route or that first long run or that first catch-and-run that resembles myself, that’ll be the moment when I feel like I’m back,” he said. “I’m hoping it comes the first play of Week 1.”
Now that would be impossible to overlook.