New York Giants
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Ever since his road to recovery from last year's season-ending calf injury, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has never given up hope of getting back on the field with his teammates and becoming a contributor.
On Tuesday, the 29-year-old receiver's wish came true as he was cleared to participate in individual unit drills and participate in about three team snaps conducted at walk-through pace on the first day of the Giants' mandatory minicamp.
"It was good to have Victor back in the fold another small step today," said head coach Ben McAdoo. "We felt it was time to take the next step. He ran a couple routes vs. air, man-to-man, stuck his foot in the ground and looked like he could get some separation."
"Good to see him out there doing some routes vs. air and going through the walk-throughs and good to see him in the mix," said quarterback Eli Manning.
"He's been around, he knows the offense, but get him back out there where you're going through all the checks and you're seeing coverages and obviously making plays against the defense, I know he's excited about that."
That's certainly an understatement. Cruz was so excited about the possibility of getting his first team reps in almost a year that he woke up Tuesday morning just a few minutes shy of his 6 am alarm, raring to go after having been able to successfully run and plant during his workout Friday, a workout in which he had zero setbacks.
"I think I was ready," Cruz said, describing himself as being at the turning point in his comeback from almost two seasons away. "I personally wanted to do something this spring. (The trainers) agreed and said I was doing everything right and that I had no setbacks, so I'm happy they listened to me."
Cruz wouldn't put a percentage on how far along he is in his comeback, but did keep reiterating how good he felt and how he remained optimistic that he wouldn't have to worry about setbacks.
"I'm just about there. I just have to continue to build the route tree and get the deeper routes and continue to build the route tree to continue to build confidence," he said. "I'm just about where I feel about 100 percent and I'm trying to continue that pace."
The sight of Cruz on the field certainly energized his teammates. Fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr. initially responded with a wide grin when asked what it meant to have Cruz back.
"It's been a long road. There's nobody who wants to be out there more than him," Beckham said. "At the end of the day, that's all we've been doing since we were little and he doesn't want to stop now."
He might have to, though, at least temporarily. Cruz said the goal is for the training wheels to come off by July 28, the day the Giants report to training camp.
He said he's not worried about any setbacks, which of course happened last year when he was in a similar position, and is confident that he's done all the right things to ensure he's able to make the comeback he's been dreaming of since first suffering a torn patellar injury in October 2014.
"I trust my body and the work I've done has paid off and not think about anything bad happening because that's when something bad can happen," Cruz said. "Just put everything behind me and put it all out there on the field and continue to do my best.
"Come July 28 the plan is definitely to be 100 percent full-go."
If Cruz is indeed ready by then, Beckham is looking forward to what a receiving lineup featuring himself, Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard might mean for the Giants.
Beckham again broke out in a grin and then threw his arms up to signal a touchdown.
Even the normally stoic Manning seemed to drool a bit at the thought of having such a diverse receiving corps.
He said, "You get excited. The more weapons you can have, versatile guys you can move around, put them in different spots. I think I'm excited to have Sterling come around and make plays, but yes, it be good to get Victor back in the mix for training camp and see if he can help us out."