From there, the former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion rehabbed the knee and was even ahead of schedule when training camp arrived. But then a calf injury sprung up, stringing him along for weeks before he ultimately underwent season-ending surgery.
After all that and as he looks ahead to his seventh season, Cruz just wants to do one thing he has done 264 times in his career.
“I just want to catch a football, man,” Cruz said on NFL Network. “It’s been so long. I want to put some pads on.”
Speaking from San Francisco, home of this Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, Cruz gave his state of the union address.
“I’m feeling good, finally back to feeling about 100 percent, no more pain in the calf,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of continuing the strength work and rehab work to get back to running and cutting and all of that good stuff. So I’m excited for the process. Mentally, I’ve overcome so much these past two years, even, and so I’m excited to get back out there, start running.”
A lot has changed since Cruz’s last appearance in a Giants uniform.
Tom Coughlin, the winningest Giants coach of the Super Bowl era, stepped down, and Ben McAdoo, his offensive coordinator, was named the successor. Cruz was injured five games and three quarters into McAdoo’s tenure with the Giants.
“I think he provides a spark of energy, a spark that we need as a new face, a new tone, a new voice for us to look up to,” Cruz said. “And I think he does a good job of -- on the offensive side -- understanding how to talk to his players, understanding what to say to his players and getting them on the same page. And he’s done a great job of that these past two years and we’ve had some success offensively when you look at the statistics.”
Cruz also thinks his impact goes beyond numbers.
“And I think he can preach that to us and we can follow that. We can follow his lead of being those lunch pail guys and go in there and really put the work in and make it out the other end. So I think he provides that source of energy for us, and I think he’ll be good for us going forward.”
Meanwhile, fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. exploded onto the scene and made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons. Fans, coaches, and teammates dream of the possibilities of Cruz and Beckham on the field at the same time, but the tandem has played only one full game together.
But there’s always 2016.
“It could look very good,” Cruz said of the offense. “Obviously as you can see, Eli’s put up the best numbers of his career these past two years and that’s with just Odell out there and obviously teams keying on him.
“So that says a lot about our offense and the things that we can do. So once we get some more threats out there and get everybody healthy again, I think injuries really bugged us these last two years. But once everybody is out there healthy and playing at a high level, I think we can do some really good things.”
Lastly, no one escapes radio row without a Super Bowl prediction as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos prepare to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers for a 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff at Levi’s Stadium.
Does Cruz have to go with Eli’s older brother? You bet he does.
“I think I do because I don’t want any problems when I go back in that locker room,” Cruz said. “I want him to have his [John] Elway type of moment. Everybody thinks this is it for him. I want him to go out on top and go out unblemished and win two. I know he wants to tie Eli in the back of his head, so I want him to get that second Super Bowl, for sure.”