Victor Cruz did not have a case of the Mondays as he drove to work Monday morning. Instead, he was eager and chipper and even a little reflective.
"I was like, 'Man, I'm actually going to be putting a helmet on,' " he said. "This is around the same time that it all happened last year. It was a little emotional. I can't lie, there could be some emotions spread out there on the field on Sunday, so we'll see."
Indeed we will.
Barring some setback in practice, Cruz will return to the field for the Giants in their road game against the Bills. After recovering from a patellar tendon tear suffered almost a year ago (Oct. 12) and then missing more than a month with a calf strain (Aug. 19), Cruz said the words that he and many of his fans and teammates have been anticipating for some time.
"I'm convinced," he said, "that I'm playing Sunday."
Monday was the latest step in the 51-week process of that declaration. He was with the team for an abbreviated practice, ran routes and even caught live passes.
"The calf felt great," he said, calling himself "100 percent" healed. "I think the training staff wants me to pace it, not to go zero to 100, just go incrementally throughout the week and get myself ready to play."
It was hard for Cruz to hide his excitement. He grinned throughout the length of his meeting with the media, kept engaging teammates in the locker room and even stopped by the row of lockers where the practice-squad players dress to chat and mess around with a basketball they were dribbling.
His mere presence on the field seemed to be uplifting for everyone.
"When he feels like he's coming and he's excited and he's anxious to get back in there and the other guys feel that energy and that passion," Tom Coughlin said, "that's a good thing."
"Not only the player that he is, it's the leader he is and the type of person he is," defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. said. "When you know you have a good person like that who has battled back, it makes you want to play harder when you know how hard he's worked to get out there. It gives you that extra pep. It's a positive for morale and the team, but also for making plays and winning."
That last part is what the Giants need more than anything. Their offense has been largely moribund through three games, and an infusion of Cruz's ability into the receiving corps could be exactly what it needs to get going.
Coughlin has known Cruz and helped guide his career from an undrafted nobody to a superstar to what he is now: a veteran trying to prove wrong a world that doubted he could return. Coughlin certainly is thrilled to have one of his best players back on the field -- "He will add something," he said -- but when asked if he has any emotional investment in Cruz's imminent comeback, Coughlin was all practicality (although with a smile): "I will when he goes in the end zone."
It's no accident that when speaking about the joy of being at practice Monday, Cruz added that he was "glad Odell [Beckham Jr.] was out there with me today."
Cruz and Beckham have been on the field together for only six quarters. The Giants have spent many hours daydreaming about what it might be like to have both at their disposal and playing at a high level. On Sunday, they might get their chance.
Cruz said that if he is lucky enough to score Sunday, he won't stray from his traditional salsa dance. He did, however, say it would be an emotional one. As it will be for everyone who has waited patiently with him through the past year.
Said Prince Amukamara: "We're excited to see him dance."
After almost a full year, they'll be excited to see him do just about anything.