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Victor Cruz makes successful return in win over Jets

Posted Aug 27, 2016

Victor Cruz made his return to the field Saturday in the Giants' 21-20 win over the Jets: 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Victor Cruz had a ball, even if he caught just one.

The Giants’ electrifying wide receiver and fan favorite made his long-awaited return to game action Saturday, when the Giants defeated the Jets, 21-20, in the annual MetLife Bowl. Cruz caught only one pass – a four-yarder to the right side on the first play of the second half – but that didn’t mitigate his tremendous joy at playing his first game in 22 months. It’s possible a former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl winner never felt better about such a slim statistical line.

>> WATCH GIANTS VS. JETS HIGHLIGHTS

“It was great, man,” Cruz said. “That ball felt like it was forever in the air before it got to my hands. But it was good to kind of catch that ball and get a little contact, get a little hit out of bounds, and hopefully I can build on that. But it was definitely good to get one in.”

Cruz was also pleased when he looked at the big picture.

“It felt good to put that jersey on again and go out there with my teammates,” he said, “from the warmup, the pregame, and then during the game to be in the position to make a play and be out there running routes against an opponent, it felt good.”

Cruz was targeted on just one other pass. Early in the second quarter, Eli Manning threw long to Cruz, who had lined up in the left slot. Cornerback Buster Skrine was beaten, but the Jets’ defensive front was in pursuit of Manning, who couldn’t get the ball far enough downfield. Safety Marcus Gilchrist almost intercepted the pass.

“Eli was getting some pressure in his face when he threw it, so the ball kind of faded inside a little bit,” Cruz said. “I had to come, turn back inside and kind of go after the ball. Thought I had a shot until I saw Gilchrist come late, but I definitely had a step on the DB at the time, so if Eli was untouched, I think we had a shot.”

Even with the missed connection on a potential big play, Cruz’s coaches and teammates were happy to see him back on the field.
 
“It was good to have him out there for a healthy amount of snaps,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “We would’ve liked to get him the ball a little earlier in the game, let him get his hands on the ball. But he looked comfortable out there. He looked confident.”

>> INSTANT POSTGAME REACTIONS

Cruz had last played in a game on Oct. 12, 2014, when he tore his right patellar tendon in a game in Philadelphia. That injury cost him the final 10 games of the season, and a calf issue that required surgery kept him sidelined for the entire 2015 season. Cruz missed the first two preseason games with a groin strain.

He admitted he felt “a little bit” rusty. “Obviously, you're just trying to get your feet up under you again and things like that,” Cruz said. “On that one move where Eli just missed me, I felt like I was shaking some of the rust off a little bit - so it was definitely a good feeling.”

So was hearing the once-familiar “Cruuuuz” chant in MetLife Stadium for the first time in almost two years.

“It was unreal,” Cruz said. “It kind of gave me goosebumps, especially that first walk out onto the field, 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 the Giants fans across the world, how much they’ve anticipated this moment, and how much I anticipated this moment to be back in front of them. It was a pretty surreal moment for me, to say the least.

“I just wanted to see myself get open, continue to go out there and do the things that I’m accustomed to doing and I felt that way. I felt good about the things that I was putting out there. I felt good about how I was running my routes, the things that I was doing and things of that nature, so step one was definitely being out there, getting out there with my teammates, and then step two was not just being out there, it was making an impact.”

Will step three be another stint on the field in the final preseason game, Thursday vs. New England?

“From a personal level, I would like to play, even if it’s just a series or two,” Cruz said. “Do I need to play? I don't think, I think it's just a matter of continuing to understand what we want to accomplish as a team and as a game plan and from a receiving corps. I think I can go out there September 11 (for the regular-season opener in Dallas) and be okay.”