EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** After running for the first time since re-injuring his calf last month, Victor Cruz said today he "absolutely" believes he will play this season.
"I truly feel that way," Cruz said. "I think it just takes more days of preparation, understanding how my body feels moving forward, and how the calf feels as we begin to progress in these upcoming weeks."
But Cruz demurred when asked if it's reasonable to think he would return after the Giants' bye, Nov. 29 at Washington.
"We'll see," he said. "That's all up to the doctors and how they feel and how they look at things. So we'll see how it goes." He later said "I hope so" when asked again about a post-bye return.
"I don't want to come back unless I'm 100 percent," he said. "I don't want to go out there 75, 80, or 90, I want to go out there and feel like I'll be the same person, the same athlete that I was the last time I was on the field. So that's what my goal is, that's what I'm shooting for and we'll see what happens."
The Giants will have six games remaining after their bye. Cruz conceded he is well aware the clock is ticking.
"I'd be wrong to sit here and tell you that I've got plenty of time, because it's week nine in the season, and I missed a good chunk of time already," he said. "So I just want to get out there and be 100 percent and play. I just want to play this game again and help my team win and help my team get over the hump and be a voice of this team, not only in the locker room or on the practice field, but in the games, and be out there with them. Lord knows I miss it with every ounce of my body. But I know I can't be out there until I'm 100 percent."
Photos from Giants Practice as the team preps for Week 9
Cruz will miss his 19th consecutive regular-season game on Sunday, when the Giants face the Buccaneers in Tampa. He sat out the final 10 last season after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee. He has participated in just one practice since originally injuring his calf in training camp on Aug. 17.
But today he took what he hopes will be a significant step forward when he ran for the first time.
"Even if it was just a light jog picking up some speed," Cruz said, "it was good to be out there and good to feel like an athlete that can run again."
His goal now is very simple for a player with 264 career receptions. "To continue running," he said. "To continue picking up the speed and continue to do more straight line stuff then obviously begin to cut and all those different things. So we're just going to take it one day at a time."
The other encouraging news for Cruz is the pain in his leg has receded.
"The calf feels good," he said. "It's all about how it feels running and going full speed, because I haven't tested it in that regard yet. But as of right now, it feels good, there's no adverse pain, there's nothing after today. Everything feels great.
"The MRI's are clean, the MRI's look good. It's just a matter of how I feel and a matter of how it feels as we begin to pick up the speed and pick up the tempo, and see how the calf continues to hold up."
The Giants hope it holds up well enough for Cruz to return to the field soon.
• Today is Odell Beckham Jr's. 23rd birthday. So what does he wish for?
"I wish that we win the game Sunday," Beckham said, "and then the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that, the ones all the way after that, leading up to maybe hoisting the trophy one day. That would be the wish for me."
• The Giants have lost three games this season in which they held late leads, including last week in New Orleans. They also defeated San Francisco and Dallas in close games in October. Beckham believes the experience performing in tight situations will lead to long-term benefits.
"It's unfortunate, but I think it'll help us in the end," Cruz said. "It's unfortunate to have those losses on the record. But once it comes down to those crunch times toward the back end of the season, games that are going to be like that. We've been in that situation three times in a row. We know what it's like to have lost it at the last minute, and what we could have done better, or whatever the case may be, so you're able to use it, learn from it, and correct your mistakes."
• Three players practiced today on a limited basis after missing the workout yesterday: wide receiver Rueben Randle (hamstring), guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle) and safety Craig Dahl (neck). Also limited in practice were cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), running back Orleans Darkwa (back) and linebacker Uani 'Unga (neck).
Amukamara has been wearing a harness to protect his injury.
"You wouldn't want to do that (simulate tackling) right now anyway, because he's under control," coach Tom Coughlin said. "As much as the strap was down, he did have his hands up kind of high a couple of times yesterday. And did a nice job with it and didn't look like it was something that was really affecting him, or he was thinking about anyway. That was good to see. The idea, of course, is to get him going and get him in position where he's maneuvering as a defensive back will maneuver, so when he does get the green light, he can go."
In addition to Cruz, four players did not practice: linebackers Jon Beason (ankle/knee) and J.T. Thomas (ankle), tight end Larry Donnell (neck) and cornerback Leon McFadden (groin).
• Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara visited the locker room with crew that was taping a segment for Japanese television. In part of the segment, Uehara played catch with Eli Manning – with a football, not a baseball.