It has been a long wait for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, but all signs point to the veteran making his 2015 regular season debut in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. With his calf injury behind him, Cruz is convinced he will play and his optimism has his teammates all fired up.
"We've seen flashes of him in training camp, and we're just excited to see him on the field,'' cornerback Prince Amukamara said, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. "We're excited to see him dance a little bit, so hopefully he gets in the end zone.''
After opening training camp as a surprise participant, Cruz worked his way back slowly as the Giants put him on a pitch count. He had a strong showing during a joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals in the preseason, but a calf injury popped up and it kept him out for over a month. Cruz began running and cutting last week, and now that he's back at practice, head coach Tom Coughlin is picking up on the buzz surrounding his return.
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"It feels like he's coming and is excited and is anxious to get back in there,'' Coughlin said. "Other guys feel that energy and that passion, and that's a good thing.''
Cruz is expect to make a major impact on the field. In his place, the Giants used Preston Parker as their starting slot wide receiver through the first two weeks of the regular season. Parker was released before Week 3 after dropping five passes, including four on third and fourth down situations. In Week 3, Dwayne Harris took Parker's place, but he failed to make an impact -- he finished with zero catches.
Some of Cruz's teammates are excited to get him back for what he can bring to the team in the locker room. After undergoing roster turnover this offseason, Cruz is one of the few remaining veterans from the Giants' last championship roster.
"Not only just the player that he is, just the leader he is and the type of person he is, the type of teammate he is,'' defensive end Robert Ayers said. "When you know you got a good person like that that's battled back, it makes you want to play harder when you know how hard he's worked to get out there and he's out there with you. It just gives you that extra pep. It's a positive for the team, for morale and also for making plays.''
Cruz is focused on the imapct he can make on the field. Defenses have keyed in on Odell Beckham Jr., and this has forced Eli Manning to look elsewhere at times. Rueben Randle finally emerged as a threat in Week 3, but the potential return of Cruz could take even more coverage away from Beckham in the future.
"I think from a slot receiver position, there's definitely some holes there that I can hopefully, God willing, fill and be the same player of old, and do some things in that area,'' Cruz said.
With left tackle Ereck Flowers, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ayers also on track to rejoin the starting lineup in Week 4, the Giants could be working with their full staring unit on both sides of the ball for the first time in 2015.