Not cruising yet: WR Cruz has learned to be patient
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Patience is one virtue few football players are familiar with.
Then they get injured and they have little choice.
''When you sit down and you have to be patient, it's kind of forced upon you, and I was kind of OK with that,'' says Cruz, who tore right knee ligaments in the sixth game of 2014 and has been working his way back ever since.
''The last four years of my life have been just so fast-paced and rapid, and going after it. This year I finally got to take a step back and look at it all a little bit, so it was good for me. I kind of had a retooled mindset of just going out there and playing.''
Except he can't go out and play, or even practice. Cruz knows he can't push things, even when he wants to.
So he listens to the medical staff, goes through his paces with trainers - and looks ahead to the opening of training camp at the end of July, when he plans to be the dynamic receiver he has been through his previous seasons.
''Obviously, you want to push it and continue to go on the path of getting back to 100 percent, but you need your recovery days, too,'' Cruz said. ''So it will be a little of both, the training staff and myself are working on putting a regimen together that tailors both of those things, so we'll see how it goes.''
Cruz isn't the only Giant eager to see him back on the field, teaming with Odell Beckham Jr., last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Rueben Randle. Coach Tom Coughlin, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, quarterback Eli Manning - well, just about everyone on the offensive side of the ball - can't wait.
''Once we can all get out there, get to bond, it will really be good,'' Randle says. ''Hopefully we can play a full season together.''
One of the best slot receivers in the league, Cruz hasn't played a full schedule since 2012. When healthy, he has been Manning's top target, able to make key possession catches, but also break long plays.
His versatility fits perfectly in McAdoo's version of the West Coast offense. And with Beckham emerging as such a dangerous threat, double-teaming Cruz will be difficult for opposing defenses.
Of course, none of that will happen until Cruz gets fully fit. Once again, patience must be the plan.
''I want to come out here, come end of July, from a personal standpoint, and be kind of ready to go,'' he says. ''Be healthy, and from a physical standpoint, my wind, just have everything ready to go come July 29, July 30. Then let the training staff kind of pull me back and let me know what they want from that point.
''But I want to come in ready to go, energized, fully healthy, running, and be good to go.''
How good can Cruz be? If he recaptures the speed and elusiveness that marked his performances from 2011-2013, he can be both reliable and a game breaker.
In 2011, his first full pro season, he made 82 catches for 1,536 yards (a superb 18.7 yards per reception) and nine touchdowns. Oh yeah, the Giants won the Super Bowl that season.
Cruz increased his production to 86 catches the next year, but they were generally shorter routes, and he had 10 TDs. He was having another strong season in 2013 when he hurt his left knee, limiting him to 14 games and 73 receptions. But he already had 998 yards receiving.
His sights now are set on 16 games - and some postseason work, too.
''I have nothing to hold back any more, I have nothing to look forward to - obviously winning and individual stuff and team stuff. But from an individual standpoint, I just want to go out there and play and enjoy kind of the second half of my career a little bit. Just enjoy it. A lot of guys don't play six, seven-plus years in this league, and I just want to enjoy it.''
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