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Justin Tuck wants Victor Cruz back, sad Osi Umenyiora left

Justin Tuck of the New York Giants prepares

Justin Tuck of the New York Giants prepares to play against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 25, 2012. Credit: Jim McIsaac

When Giants defensive end Justin Tuck reports for voluntary workouts on Monday at the Timex Performance Center, he expects to see Victor Cruz working out alongside the rest of his teammates. Despite the fact Cruz's contract situation remains in limbo, Tuck suggested it's in Cruz's best interests to show up.

"I have no reason not to [think Cruz won't be there]," Tuck said on Thursday at an NFL Play-60 event at P.S. 21 in Staten Island. "[Cruz] hasn't said anything as far as why he wouldn't be there, even though, obviously, the contract situation."

Cruz is a restricted free agent, but hasn't yet signed his tender offer with the Giants. The team would like to sign him to a long-term contract, but so far, no deal. It's uncertain whether Cruz will sign the tender and play the 2013 season on it before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Cruz is permitted to work out with the team, even if he doesn't sign his tender.

"For me, I think the biggest way to get things settled is to be there in good faith, I guess," Tuck said. "But I can't answer questions for Victor, he has to do what's best for him. And hopefully, when it's all said and done, he's doing a salsa in a Giants uniform this season. That's all I'm worried about."

Cruz is at Duke University in North Carolina training with Giants quarterback Eli Manning and a handful of other NFL players. He hasn't said publicly whether he plans to show up for workouts, which are voluntary.

Tuck said he is in regular contact with Cruz, but the receiver's contract isn't a part of their discussions.

"We don't talk about the contract, because most players don't talk about contract issues," he said. "That's just something that another guy has to deal with. But from everything I've seen from Cruz, he's in great spirits, and he's not letting this contract dispute or contract situation deter him. He's already training, and I see no reason why he won't be poised to have another great year for us."

One player who won't be there on Monday is defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who signed a free-agent deal with the Falcons after failing to reach an agreement with the Giants. It will be the first time in Tuck's career that Umenyiora won't be his teammate.

"You can never replace a guy like Osi," Tuck said. "Everyone knows what he does on the field. A lot of people don't understand how much of a help he is in the locker room and as a motivator. You see the things he's able to do on the football field. We always have worked together to try and polish our game. Losing him is going to be a huge burden. [But] regardless of who you lose, we have to depend on the person behind him to step up. That's myself, that's [Jason Pierre-Paul], that's Kiwi [Mathias Kiwanuka], that's Adrian Tracy. All the guys in that room. It's going to be a collective effort and it always has been a collective effort since I've been here. You wish Osi well, hated it had to go down that way. But as long as he's happy about it and as long as it's going to put him in the right place, that's fine. He'll always be a Giant in my book. He's a guy I've played all my career with up until now. So I just wish him a lot of luck."

Umenyiora called the Falcons the most talented team he'd ever been on, which may have appeared to be a shot at the two Super Bowl teams he played on with the Giants. But Tuck said he doesn't think that's what Umenyiora meant.

"What did you expect him to say?" Tuck said. "Osi is very, very smart. We've talked many times about how talent doesn't win games. It doesn't. I know what he meant by that, and it's definitely not a shot against the Giants. Up until the last few months of negotiations, he wanted to be back here. It didn't work out and he moved on. But now he has a new home and now he has to get those guys ready and win another Super Bowl. I don't take any offense at all."

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