Wide receiver Victor Cruz is attempting to return to the Giants from a torn patellar tendon suffered last season and a calf injury that limited him for much of this preseason. He spoke with Newsday about his long recovery from the knee injury, his relationship with Odell Beckham Jr. and, at age 28, cherishing the little time he knows he has left as an NFL player.
Newsday: Last October you left the field in tears. Do you imagine there might be some tears when you get back on it?
Victor Cruz: Um, maybe. I think so. I won't know until I get out there and the emotions kind of take over and I get to line up again. And God forbid I get in the end zone, it'll be a moment for sure.
N: What was the hardest day of the rehab?
Cruz: It had to be the middle, that third month to the eighth month. Just the daily going in there and having your leg propped up and it's a quarter of the size that it was. You're kind of looking at it like, 'I have to really put the work in day in and day out.' And you do so. But it was those middle-of-the-road months that were tough.
N: Whom did you lean on during those times when, I'm sure, you thought 'I can't do this' or 'I don't want to do this'?
Cruz: I would be home and my mom would always make sure I was OK in her mom kind of way. And my daughter. She didn't care that I was hurt, she still wanted to play, she still wanted to be her upbeat self, and that was what kind of got me through it. That I could do it for her.
N: Was she aware that you were hurt?
Cruz: She knew that Daddy had a boo-boo, but other than that, she had no idea what else was happening. She enjoyed my crutches, she thought they were fun. I said, 'These are not to be played with,' all that good stuff.
N: You did a very funny commercial with Odell in which you say to him, in your thoughts, that you want your life back that he stole. I'm sure a lot of people think that you think that. How did that commercial come about? Did you have any input in that script?
Cruz: No. Foot Locker came to us with it and I give Odell a lot of credit because he didn't want to do it at first because of how the script was. But I called him up and assured him, like, "Man, let's do this thing. That doesn't matter to me, I'm not that kind of guy, but for everybody else on the outside, let's give them a shot and make it funny.'' I thought it was good, and the people enjoy it. I still get stopped on the street about it. But we finally got to do it and it was cool.
N: There were a lot of comparisons between his story and your story last year, but your story is so different. He came in as a first-round pick from a football powerhouse and you took a different route. When people make those comparisons, do you want to remind them?
Cruz: A little bit. Everyone has a path through which they get into what they love to do. Mine is different just because of the road traveled, undrafted and things like that. But I see the comparisons, first year making a splash early in your career, leading the team in receiving, just really splashing on to the scene. I get why they make the comparisons. But the roads are definitely different.
N: What do you make of DeflateGate and the commissioner's power? That's obviously a big issue for the players right now.
Cruz: Yeah, it's a big issue and it's tough. I always think about it as: What if I was Roger? What if I was him, what would I do and how would I go about things? It's tough to have these arbitrary decisions that are placed down upon guys who are doing wrongdoings in the league. You just wish that there was some other way to go about this thing instead of it feeling like there is one person with one rule and no one to oversee it. You want to make sure that the P.A. [NFL Players Association] is on your side as well, making sure they're getting all the information and things like that. DeflateGate is something you never want to see happen, but it happened and the rules are being placed down as we see.
N: Does it make guys and teams more aware of the fine-print rules, those little breaking-the-speed-limit-by-1-mile-per-hour rules?
Cruz: Absolutely. It keeps everyone on their toes, not just New England or specific people but everyone around the league. Everyone's eyes are up and their ears are open and they're making sure that all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed. It's definitely causing leaguewide attention.
N: They're talking about changing the rules for the gloves. How will that affect the game for receivers?
Cruz: I don't know how much they would change them. I'm going to thank Odell for that one, because that's definitely all because of his catch. We'll see. We feel like the technology is there. The DBs wear the same gloves we wear, and so do the linebackers, so everyone is pretty much on even playing ground when you think about it. We'll see what happens.
N: You've called your return the start of the second half of your career. How sobering is that to realize how quickly this is all going?
Cruz: Extremely sobering, which is why I'm going to make sure I have a lot of fun with this game. I have a lot of fun playing with these guys on my team day in and day out. The fun that I have in the locker room, I'm really just going to take advantage of that and really cherish it. Other guys, they leave for whatever reason and that's the part that they miss. Even being out this past year, that's the part I missed the most. It's not game day or scoring touchdowns, although I love that and that's obviously what got me here. But that locker room and those meeting rooms, those are the things that you miss.
N: What do you want to accomplish on the field in this second half of your career?
Cruz: Hopefully a more consistent part to the first half. I want to continue to be a special player for this team, a guy who brings the energy on the field, a guy who leads by example and continues to grow within himself and with his teammates.
N: You won a Super Bowl your first full season in the NFL and haven't been back to the playoffs since. Do you sense the urgency in this franchise and from the guys on the team?
Cruz: For sure. You can really feel it. You can really see it among the players. We understand it, even the new guys who have come in through free agency or the draft, they can feel the sense of urgency here too. Within the coaching staff, from the head coach. It's our time. And it's our time to get back to that pinnacle, which is where we are comfortable and where we would like to be. Especially around this place, they like being in the playoffs and competing for a Super Bowl, and that's essentially what our goal is.
N: At some point there is going to be a coaching change here, whoever makes that decision and on whoever's terms it happens. If you are here when that happens, can you imagine playing for anyone other than Tom Coughlin?
Cruz: No way. No way, man. This will be my sixth year under coach Coughlin and he's just so one-of-a-kind and just a special, special coach. Hopefully we can get him to coach for another 10 years, but we'll see how that goes. It'll definitely be different playing for someone else, but if that time comes, we'll approach it.
N: You have your hands in a lot of different areas when you are not on the football field. What are you going to do when football is over?
Cruz: I don't know, man. I think it's a toss-up between continuing to be just a dad, a father at home, and I'll probably get into some acting. It's kind of one of my passions, one of the things I always wanted to do. To have that opportunity to do it, why not?
N: You got to do that with "Ballers" (the HBO series in which he had a recurring guest role) a little bit.
Cruz: I got to put my toe in the water. So yeah, we're taking it slow but steady.
N: That lured you in a little bit more toward acting?
Cruz: Yeah. And then doing the commercials and stuffover the years, just being on sets and being around it, it's something I can do.