EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Victor Cruz hasn't played a game in more than 10 months, he's spent most of his time since then rehabbing after major knee surgery, he has a calf injury that has kept him out of the preseason games, and he hasn't been cleared to practice, with the countdown to the regular-season opener at 13 days.
But the Giants' star wide receiver said today he still has no uncertainty about playing in Dallas a week from Sunday. Well, almost none.
"Not yet - at least," Cruz said. "Nothing has been set in stone, in terms of playing that first week or not playing that first week. I'm still excited for Week 1. That's still the goal, that's still the plan, in my opinion. Obviously, the training staff will advise if they see differently as the next week and a half comes along. But we'll see. So I'm just taking it one day at a time, and making sure that I'm ready to go."
Cruz has downplayed the significance of the injury since he was first sidelined. When asked today, he would not say if it more serious than he first thought.
"I think we're just being careful, cautious with it," Cruz said. "Especially, you don't want to come out here, and calves are tricky. Once they feel healed and once they feel okay, you can go out here and mess it up again. So you want to make sure that it's fully healed and fully recovered once you step back out there on the field."
Cruz insists the inflammation in the muscle has improved.
"It's gone down substantially," he said. "But we're still working with the training staff to continue to get the swelling down and continue to get myself back to 100 percent."
The Giants returned to the practice field today without Cruz, and he is not expected to play the team's preseason finale Thursday in New England.
"They haven't cleared me just yet," Cruz said. "I'm just listening to the training staff. The things they say to me are indicative of what will happen out here on this field."
This summer, the Giants have seldom had their top three wide receivers – Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle and Cruz – working at the same time with Eli Manning. Cruz is confident that when he does return to the field, he can quickly regain the form that made him one of the NFL's most dynamic receivers, and should help give the Giants one of the league's most prolific passing attacks.
"Absolutely," he said. "I feel like, obviously, offensively I know the offense, I know all the things that I've done since I started playing football - catching the ball, running routes, and all of those things like that. So I still think I'm right there. Just things happen, just a small setback. I'm just anxious to get through this and make it out the other end.
"I'm still confident, I still feel good. Obviously the calf - once that's back to form and I'm able to run again, that confidence will always be there to go out and make plays and catch the football."
That's exactly what the Giants want to see against the Cowboys.
"I think I'll be ready to go," Cruz said. "Hopefully, come Week 1, I'm able to get on the practice field and run around a little bit. I know how Coach Coughlin loves his guys to practice; if you don't practice, you don't play. So I want to be out here for practice come Week 1. And hopefully that's the goal. We'll see where it goes."
Defensive end Robert Ayers said he won't practice today, but was otherwise vague in discussing the injury he suffered in warmups prior to the game against the Jets on Saturday night.
Because he was hurt, Ayers was a late scratch from the game, which he watched from the Giants' sideline.
Asked where he is hurt, Ayers said, "My ankle area, put it like that."
Moments earlier, Ayers was asked how he felt.
"I'll be alright," he said. "Right now, just trying to manage things and keep things on the up and up and get better. I'll be alright. We're going to manage everything and keep everything on the positive side and try to get better. So I'll be alright."
Ayers, who was slated to start, admitted he was "frustrated" that he couldn't play.
"Because it was a big game for us as a team and organization, especially with the crosstown rival," he said. "So I definitely wanted to be out there with my guys. Kind of angry, it was an unfortunate situation. A weird situation where you're in a position where you have to make a decision like that and handle things the way we had to handle things - me not playing, things like that. I felt like I let my teammates down, especially the D-Line, I felt like I let them down"
Players talk with media before Monday's Training Camp practice