Victor Cruz is back in the game…
The 29-year-old half-Puerto Rican New York Giants wide receiver returned to game action on Saturday night after 685 days away due to injuries.
Cruz had one catch in 30 snaps in the team’s 21-20 win against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Cruz had missed most of the past two seasons with knee and calf injuries. He was also sidelined for two weeks this summer with a groin problem.
“It felt great, man, just to be with my teammates and put this 80 jersey back on and to get the love of the crowd and the people again and go out there and be in position to make a few plays as well,” he said.
Despite being on the field for all of the Giants’ first-team snaps Saturday night, Cruz was targeted twice by quarterback Eli Manning. He caught his only pass on the first play of the second half — a quick 4-yard out — against the Jets’ backups.
Cruz said he escaped the contest “unscathed.” He accomplished his two goals: getting on the field with his teammates and making an impact.
“It did, it felt like old times,” Cruz said. “I caught the ball in the flat and tried to make something happen, but I got to feel a little bit of contact, which was a great feeling.”
Cruz’s only other target came on third down early in the second quarter when he got a step on cornerback Buster Skrine deep downfield. But Manning’s pass was underthrown and too far inside, and it was almost intercepted by safety Marcus Gilchrist.
On a night when the first-team offense managed three first downs and 56 total yards in two-plus quarters, the Giants can at least take solace that Cruz held up physically in his first game since tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee on October 12, 2014.
“A big step,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “[He] got back on the field, had a chance to win on a double move. We couldn’t get the ball off cleanly and [he] caught another ball and looked comfortable and confident.”
Cruz admitted earlier in the week that this wasn’t just a normal preseason game; given his journey and struggles, it meant much more. After exiting the tunnel before the game, Cruz went to the far end zone and took a knee. After several seconds to himself, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. came over and had some words for the well-respected veteran.
Cruz then trotted to the sideline and patted his chest as the fans in the end zone cheered and chanted his name. The trademark “Cruuuuz” was back at MetLife Stadium.
“It was unreal. It kind of gave me goose bumps, especially that first walk out on the field,” Cruz said. “To have the fans do that, it was just humbling, and it really showed how much I mean to the fan base here in this tri-state area and to all Giants fans across the world how much they have anticipated this moment and how much I anticipated this moment to be back in front of them.
“And it was a pretty surreal moment for me, to say the least.”