EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz fielded a punt Sunday in training camp practice, shuffled up the field a bit with the ball before flipping it back where it belonged. As he walked back to where his fellow punt-return-drill-participants were standing, Cruz heard a fan in the bleachers should, "The Return!", echoing the phrase Cruz has been using on social media since his catastrophic knee injury in Week 6 of last season. He smiled and tapped his heart. A cheer went up.
Cruz's return would be the feel-good story of this New York Giants camp and season. He's universally well liked by fans, teammates, coaches, staff, media ... everyone connected with the Giants. So it's only natural that "How's Cruz doing?" is one of the hottest questions of camp.
"I'm just happy to see Victor out there," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said Sunday. "He had a big injury. I still don't think he's 100 percent back, but I think he's close. And we'll continue to take it slow. But to see those two guys (Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr.) out there, it's exciting for us and it's exciting for our fans."
Cruz and Beckham, who missed minicamp with a hamstring injury, are seeing a fair number of reps in the early practices but not a full workload. This is by design, as the team is trying to bring them along slowly to avoid a recurrence of injury. Particularly in the case of Cruz, whose full recovery from a torn patellar tendon is still not assured, the Giants are monitoring his every step in practice closely.
"He seems to be doing well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I mean, there's no complaints, and he's gone through some things that I think he's maybe challenged himself and come out the other end. So, so far, so good."
Cruz has set the Week 1 game against Dallas as his goal. It's unclear whether or how much he will play in the preseason, and obviously there could be a setback or two along the way that could push things back for him. But each day is a new milepost in the recovery, and so far he's moving in the right direction, even if there's a long way to go before anyone knows whether he'll make it all the way back.
"Well, again, it was a big injury," Reese said. "But if anybody can come back and have the determination ... . The guy comes out of UMass and becomes a star. He was undrafted. So he knows what it's like to come from some depth to get to where he is. So he has the willpower, the fortitude to come back from something like that.
"He's come a long way. I still don't think you'll see the real Victor Cruz until he gets into some real games and starts to let his quickness and his instincts take over."