By all accounts, getting his new long-term contract done after almost a year of haggling was almost as steep of a hill for wide receiver Victor Cruz to climb as making the Giants roster as an undrafted rookie free agent out of UMass three years ago.
Like everything obstacle that has come his way, Cruz hung tough and waited patiently for things to fall into place. So now that that he has a deal that secures his and his family’s financial future with a pact that will pay him $45.879 million over the next six years, Cruz is ready to take on his next challenge.
That challenge is to build on what the Giants single-season receiving yards record holder with 1,536 yards in 2011 started the last two seasons in which he has logged 2,628 regular season receiving yards on 168 receptions and 19 touchdowns., earning his first Pro Bowl nod last year
“Continue to be consistent. Continue to catch the ball well. Continue to score. Eliminate the drops and continue to be the same person that I am, smiling from ear to ear when I’m making plays,” Cruz said on Friday at the opening of Giants training camp.
Although Cruz, who missed the entire spring while the details of his new deal were being hammered out, didn’t get a chance to do any work with quarterback Eli Manning during the team’s downtime before camp due to schedule conflicts, both receiver and quarterback feel that re-establishing that chemistry will be just like riding a bicycle.
“I think having Eli’s experience, he knows exactly where he wants to place the ball and I know where he wants it,” Cruz said. “It’s just a matter of physically doing it, physically getting the routes down, but Eli’s a tremendous help in terms of understanding the playbook. Understanding what he wants out of each one of us and it will be easy for us to get back on the same page.”
“He knows the offense well so it should not take us long to get back on track and get to work,” Manning added. “Obviously, we don’t have many practices before this first pre-season game so we have to get right back at it.”
It’s also going to help Cruz to have a healthy Hakeem Nicks back in the lineup. Last year with Nicks hobbled by a knee injury, opposing defenses were able to clamp down on Cruz’s production by doubling him more often than not.
“It’ll make all the difference,” Cruz said of having Nicks back at 100 percent. “ Hakeem is a special player, and when he’s healthy and all of us are out there on the same accord, playing together, we’re a tough team to beat. So I think when he’s out there healthy and everybody’s clicking and everybody’s on the same page, I think it’s just going to be beneficial to the success of our team.”
Just how good can the passing offense be with a healthy Nicks, Cruz, and Manning leading the way?
“I think we can definitely do some big things,” Cruz said. “ I think we have all the talent in place, I think we have all the tools, it’s just a matter of us coming together as a team and as a family, and if we can do that, I mean the sky’s the limit for us.”
One of those goals that Cruz and the rest of his coaches and teammates have their sights set on is becoming the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
“It’s an exciting opportunity. We understand it’s enough motivation. We don’t even need to talk about it, it’s there right in front of us,” Cruz said. “We just have to go get it and it’s something that we’re looking forward to and if we can get there and we’re putting all our eggs in that basket, that’s what we play for.
“We just want to take it one step at a time. We’re not looking ahead, we’re not looking too far to the future. We want to get a good training camp in and take it one day at a time and once we get better, we’ll cross that bridge as the season progresses.”