EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The clock counting down to Victor Cruz's return to the football field will tick far longer than he and the Giants anticipated.
Cruz, who tore his calf muscle working out on Saturday, today announced he will undergo surgery, guaranteeing he will miss the entire 2015 season. He has been sidelined with a left calf strain since mid-August. Cruz last played in a game on Oct. 12, 2013, when he tore his right patellar tendon in a game in Philadelphia. He had hoped to return this season.
"This hurts, mainly because I worked so hard to come back from the patellar tendon surgery," Cruz said in a video posted by Uninterrupted.com. "And I fought hard, day in and day out. Rehab, physical work, strength work, I felt like I was back to 100 percent. And then the calf happens, and it's a tough thing to go through. It's a tough thing to go through emotionally and physically, but I know God has a plan for me. I know I have to retool my brain and retool my body to get back to 100 percent."
The Giants wished Cruz the best and are hopeful he can return to play in 2016. But if he does play on opening day next year, it will be almost 23 months between games, an NFL eternity.
"I feel badly for Victor Cruz," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He worked hard to try to get back, and it's just not working out for him. He'll go through another offseason, try to get healthy and we'll see where that goes."
Coach Tom Coughlin said he was unaware of the latest developments with Cruz's injury until today, just hours after the 5-5 Giants lost to the 9-0 New England Patriots, 27-26.
"To be honest, the information was pretty well kept from me until today," Coughlin said. "I appreciated that in a way, I didn't want to be thinking about other things as we prepared for our game. Yeah, very disappointing, and I feel very badly for Victor in terms of this one issue, obviously the most difficult to get over the hump with. He's going to have to get this taken care of, and hopefully it will solve the issue and he can move forward and so can we."
"I feel awful for him, to be honest with you," wide receivers coach Sean Ryan said. "I had a chance to see him yesterday before the game quickly, and we just talked about it. Obviously, he is a little down about it, which I understand. It is not always going to go to your plan, and he knows that and I think he understands it. It is not his plan, but now there is a new plan. He will attack it, he will go back to work and I don't have any doubt in that, and as long as you have that mentality, you will be all right coming back from it."
Quarterback Eli Manning was like every other Giants player, surprised by the news and saddened that Cruz will miss the entire season.
"I heard it this morning, so (it is) unfortunate," Manning said. "I know it is tough on him, and he worked so hard to come back from the knee injury last year, and was excited coming out and playing and was looking good in training camp and to have this nagging calf injury. So I know it has been tough on him.
"It seemed like there was a deal that it would be a few weeks and (he would) come back, (that it was) just a calf strain. But I guess he just kept reinjuring it. I just feel for him more than anything, because I know he wants to be out there playing, and I know it has been frustrating to have this nagging him and now getting to this point."
In Cruz's absence, Dwayne Harris has settled in as the team's primary slot receiver. He is fifth on the team with 25 catches, but second with four touchdown receptions.
Photos from Victor Cruz's season with the Giants.
"He's played pretty well and he played well yesterday," Coughlin said of Harris, who led the team with six catches, tying the career high he set on Oct. 11 vs. San Francisco. They accounted for 82 yards, and one of them was a one-yard touchdown.
"He made a couple of really nice plays yesterday," Coughlin said. "We move people around in and out of that spot, and we will continue to do that, but Dwayne has done a nice job, particularly that last drive. I thought he made two super plays in that last drive."
"I think our receivers have been doing some good things," Manning said. "Dwayne has been playing well in the slot, so we have to worry about the guys we have here, and playing at a higher level to win games."
The great unanswerable question is whether Cruz can return after so much time off to the form that made him one of the NFL's most productive and exciting receivers.
"His mindset was good, it was positive, it was kind of like, alright here are the cards that have been dealt and here is how I want to do it," Ryan said. "We are going to see a couple more doctors and then go from there. (We) want to see what they want to do, and how they want to handle it. But his mindset was positive and it was pretty much 'whatever they throw at me, I'm going to take on and get this thing right.'"
"I think he can (come back)," Coughlin said. "He's young, but he's struggling with a health issue.
"Let him get healed up, let us finish our season, and then I think we'll have to have some medical opinions about what's happening here. Hopefully, there will be some good answers."