Victor Cruz does not seem the least bit interested in talking about the knee he injured last December that cost him the final two games of the season and ended his playing streak of 50 consecutive games, playoffs included.
“My knee is great,” the New York Giants' fifth-year wide receiver told me curtly Wednesday night at the premiere of We Could Be King, a documentary that focuses primarily on how massive budget cuts in Philadelphia affected one high school and its previously downtrodden football team during the 2013 season.
It’s hard to blame Cruz for not wanting to talk in great detail about the injury. It’s been over four months since he hurt the knee in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. Also, he fielded questions about his health from a variety of reporters this past Tuesday, when Giants players were available to the media for the first time this offseason at a voluntary workout program.
The 27-year-old, however, was more eager to discuss how this offseason has compared to last year’s, when he was in the midst of trying to hammer out a lucrative, long-term deal with Big Blue.
“It’s been a lot calmer,” he said with an air of relief. “I don’t have to answer as many questions as I did then. I don’t have to duck any media at events like this. I can talk to people, everything’s fine.
"I can get back to work and get back to work with the same mindset, not worry about anything and finally focus on football.”
In 2013, Cruz missed both OTAs and minicamp before finally signing a five-year, $ 43 million contract in early July.
Even though he is healthy and doesn't have to handle the stress of negotiating a new contract, Cruz still must deal with some adversity this spring. The cause is the surgically repaired left ankle of his quarterback, Eli Manning, which will likely keep the signal-caller off the field until training camp opens in late July.
The injury won’t allow Manning and his favorite receiver to practice new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system and playbook for several more months. Cruz, though, does not seem worried about the potential lack of on-field preparation with Manning.
“I think it should be fine. Right now it’s a matter of getting the offense down and getting the film work right, getting in that room and making sure we’re on the same page as far as the offense is concerned. Once Eli’s ready, when he’s healthy, we’ll be ready to go. He’s a professional, just like I am, just like we all are. And we got to be able to pick this thing up pretty quickly and make sure we get the best of it.”
The likelihood of Manning and Cruz getting in sync by Week 1 of the regular season seems good, as they have had great chemistry over their first three years together. The duo has hooked up 241 times in the regular season and 21 more times in the 2011 postseason.
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The same can’t be said for Manning and Rueben Randle. Despite Randle leading the Giants with six receiving touchdowns last season, the two were clearly not on the same page for a good chunk of 2013. The result was Randle being the target on eight of Manning’s interceptions, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com said in a Team Stream Now video with Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe this week that while Randle has the trust of New York's front office, the same can’t be said for Manning and Tom Coughlin.
“I think it’s his time,” he said. “I think he understands that. It’s his time to step up and be that guy for us. I think he owns that; I think he wants to be that and I assume he’s going to prove that in OTAs and in minicamp, and he’s really going to step forward and make a big splash. So, we’ll see. I’m excited for him.”
During the We Could Be King premiere, the NFL regular-season schedule was officially released. Cruz was unaware of the announcement but admitted that “people were texting me already putting their bids in for tickets, so I knew something was up.”
When I told him that Big Blue would open in Detroit against the Lions on Monday Night Football, he simply exclaimed, “it’s always good to play on Monday Night Football. I’m looking forward to it now.”
He should be excited for the game, considering his Week 1 effort in 2013, where Cruz racked up 118 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a 36-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. That game was also on the road and in prime time, though Sunday Night Football was the stage. Eerily, it took place on September 8, just like the 2014 season opener will.
Hopefully for the Giants and their fans, Cruz will have deja vu, but this time it will lead to a win.
All quotes obtained firsthand.