Victor Cruz believes the Super Bowl champion Giants will get every opponent's very best effort in the 2012 season.
"Everybody wants to beat the defending champs," Cruz said today. "Anytime we step on that field this year we'll have a bullseye right on our backs. And we just have to go out there and perform."
That target will be on a brand new uniform. The NFL and Nike – the league's new exclusive maker of licensed on-field apparel - unveiled uniforms for all 32 teams at a large film studio in Brooklyn today. One player for each team was on hand to model the duds, which for most franchises look very much like the uniforms they've worn for many years – the exception being the Seattle Seahawks, who have a dark blue, neon green and gray color scheme. Stars such as quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh, Michael Vick of Philadelphia and Alex Smith of San Francisco, linebacker Brian Urlacher of Chicago and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Wes Welker of New England attended the event. The Giants' player representative was Cruz, who in his first full season caught 82 passes for a franchise-record 1,536 yards.
"The uniform is great," Cruz said. "It's comfortable, it's light. It feels good to wear."
It also looks almost identical to the uniform Giants fans are accustomed to. The blue jersey with white numerals and white jersey with red numerals remain the same. The Giants will wear their five-stripe road gray pants for both home and away games (they had two different pants last year). For the first time, players will wear footwear in team colors instead of black or white. Nike has created a unique line of gloves that include the Giants' famed "ny" – on the palms.
When it was announced that Nike would begin producing NFL apparel, some skeptical fans wondered if the pro uniforms would begin to resemble some of the company's wild college designs, such as those for Boise State, Oklahoma State and, most noticeable, Oregon, which seems to have about 5,000 jersey, pants and helmet combinations.
"Nike is the same company that makes uniforms for Alabama, Penn State and USC," said Joe Skiba, the Giants' Equipment Director. "So Nike knows how to treat each organization."
The changes in the Giants' uniforms are subtle, and they have nothing to do with colors or logos. Nike has introduced a Flywire collar – used on many of their college jerseys – that holds down the front collar. The jerseys are made in part with a stretch woven material that the Giants used in their game pants last season. "It's a retro-throwback look," Skiba said.
Nike calls it a "speed machine" uniform and says the jerseys are 29 percent lighter than previous NFL jerseys.
"You know it's a great product," Skiba said. "For us, it's an easy transition."
The side panels of the pants are mesh, which will help keep the players cool. Extra padding has been added to the hip and knee areas. Both the pants and jerseys are water-resistant. Nike touted attributes in its uniforms like "zoned meshed ventilation, zoned strength" and "sweat-mapping" which will likely not be noticed by a fan sitting in section 311. But they will result in added comfort to the players, whose opinions were solicited by Nike before the uniforms were designed.
While the uniform remains essentially the same for 2012, it's uncertain what the future may hold.
"2013 might bring some change – and it might not," Skiba said.
That's down the road. Right now, the NFL and Nike want fans – and the teams – to get accustomed to their new uniforms.
"I love (the league's new uniforms)," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who attended the ceremony. "I love them first because (Nike) started with the performance side of it, which is what (Nike) is all about and we believe we're all about. And to have that kind of performance, with that kind of a look and a feel – talking to the players, they don't want to take them off. They love them. They believe they're going to perform better in those uniforms and I think they will, because they have that belief."
*Cruz was asked if the departure of wide receiver Mario Manningham means he will have a different role in the coming season.
"I know I'm going to be asked to do a little bit more," Cruz said. "I'll be held more accountable and probably get a couple more targets. But at the end of the day we have to perform at a high level. Just like on every team, guys have to step up and play. There will be some guys that have to step up and fill in that third receiver role. We'll see how it goes."
*Cruz has a busy social and appearance calendar but he has kept one eye on the coming season.
"I've been working out two or three days a week," he said. "I've been trying to squeeze them in as much as I can. It's tough to balance it all, but I'm trying to do my best.
"It's good to get back in the gym and get that football feel back."
Cruz conducted a crowded group interview in full uniform. "It feels good to be back in pads," he said.