PHILADELPHIA (AP) Victor Cruz burst on the scene with a breakout performance in Philadelphia four years ago and his career came to a halt on the same field last year.
The star wide receiver was hoping he'd make his season debut for the New York Giants (3-2) against the Eagles (2-3) at the Linc, but he won't play Monday night. Cruz is still recovering from a calf injury that has slowed his return from a serious knee injury sustained on Oct. 12, 2014.
During the third quarter of a 27-0 loss to the Eagles in front of a prime-time audience, Cruz leaped for a pass in the corner of the end zone and crumpled to the ground in agony. He sobbed into his gloves as he was carted off the field with a torn right patellar tendon.
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''Feels like yesterday that it happened and I was going through that rehab process.'' Cruz said recently. ''It wasn't the funnest one, obviously.''
Cruz worked his way back from the injury and was starting to look good in training camp before hurting his left calf in mid-August. He later aggravated the injury in individual drills and still hasn't practiced. Cruz took a shot of platelet-rich plasma a couple weeks ago in an effort to hasten his recovery.
''I am thoroughly convinced that at some point, throughout this year, I will be on that field playing at a high level, and making some plays to help my team win,'' Cruz said afterward.
An undrafted free agent out of UMass, Cruz had two career catches when he walked on the field in Philadelphia on Sept. 25, 2011. The Giants were up 7-0 late in the first quarter against the ''Dream Team'' Eagles when Eli Manning connected with Cruz on a 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
After Philadelphia rallied to go ahead 16-14, Cruz made an excellent play by outjumping two defenders on a 28-yard TD catch and the Giants went on to win 29-16.
Cruz celebrated his scores with the salsa dance and went from being an unknown to a superstar in one season. He caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine TDs and had another TD reception in New York's win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Cruz caught 86 passes and 10 TDs the next season and went to the Pro Bowl. His numbers slipped in 2013 when he missed the final two games after having minor knee surgery. He only played six games last year before getting hurt.
Cruz hasn't danced the salsa in the end zone since Sept. 21, 2014 following his last TD catch in a game against Houston.
But teammate Rueben Randle honored Cruz by doing his trademark celebration after he caught a TD pass in a win at Buffalo two weeks ago.
''That meant a lot, man,'' Cruz said. ''As I was watching, it put a smile on my face. It's just to know that my teammates and my receiving corps, specifically, are thinking about me and they know how bad I want to be out there with them, how bad I want to be in those trenches with them, and it really meant a lot for him to do that, more than he even knows.''
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