Victor Cruz has been here before. The excitement. The optimism. The thrill of returning to the field in some capacity. On Tuesday he was able to line up and stretch with his teammates on the first day of the Giants’ voluntary minicamp, and it felt like a bit of a milestone for the wide receiver who has not played in a game since early October 2014.
Too often since then, though, these little celebrations have been nothing but false starts. Moments of joy followed closely by moments of defeat. Setbacks. What Cruz termed “moments of despair.”
This feels different, though. Maybe because it could be the last chance for a new beginning for Cruz.
“Every start is fresh,” Cruz said on Tuesday. “I’m treating this start like a fresh one. I’m not thinking about any setbacks or anything that can lead me in the opposite direction from upward and onward, the way I feel I can go, the way I feel my body is taking me now. Last year was last year. My body feels great and I want to continue to build upon that.”
Cruz came back from a torn patellar tendon in his knee only to be sidelined by a calf injury. He overcame the calf injury only to reinjure it and require surgery last year. So while Tuesday was a good day for Cruz and his attempt to return to the field, it was also one we’ve seen before and seen turn quickly. And, it should be noted, he wasn’t allowed to participate in the workout beyond the stretching. After limbering up, he adjourned to a nearby field for individual work with trainers.
There are also signs, however, that the comeback could be for real this time. Ben McAdoo said that while the team is taking “small steps” with his return, Cruz would be able to play if the Giants needed him at this point. “We don’t want to rush into anything there,” McAdoo said. “When we deem him ready, we’ll put him on the field.”
That may not be until training camp this summer, which is when general manager Jerry Reese said he expects Cruz to be back. Cruz said on Tuesday that while he is ready now, he would not be upset if he is held out until then.
“I believe in this staff and if that’s what they want me to do, so be it,” he said.
Cruz also believes in himself. The Giants may be looking to add a wide receiver in the upcoming draft, someone to play alongside Odell Beckham Jr. Cruz thinks if the Giants are looking for such a player, they don’t have to look any further than ol’ No. 80.
“I definitely believe in my ability and my talent level and believe that if I’m healthy and can be out there alongside Odell and Eli and the rest of the offense that I can compete at a high level,” he said.
Beckham was excited by that prospect as well. He and Cruz have been teammates and close friends for three NFL seasons, but they have been on the field together for just six quarters of regular-season action.
“I know he’s as anxious as I am for him to get back on the field,” Beckham said. “It’s going to be fun to finally be able to line up with him . . . I have full faith in him. He seems like he’s in a good place.”
Beckham said he and a healthy Cruz would “benefit each other.”
“Put us on the same side, you get three over two, and two people will take one person and one person will be one-on-one. You pick your matchups.”
That’s assuming Cruz can come back and be the player he was. It’s not clear yet whether that will be the case no matter how much the Giants and Cruz want it to be.
“I’m not in the business to go out there and be half of myself or half of what I was,” Cruz said. “I want to go out there and be ready to go 100 percent and be the player that I once was. That’s the goal and I want to build up to that.”
It’s a build that began — again — on Tuesday.