EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Call it Victor Cruz's perfect storm.
Next Monday, Cruz's 10-day waiting period will end and he will be examined by the Giants' medical staff for the first time since he received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in the hope it would hasten the healing in his strained left calf.
That happens to be Oct. 12, which will be one year to the day since he tore his patellar tendon in a game in Philadelphia.
It's probably a longshot, but if Cruz is cleared to play in the Giants' first game following the exam, it will be against the Eagles – in Philadelphia.
"It would be a good one to come back for, to say the least," Cruz said today.
Of course, after sitting out every game for a year, and missing practice for the last six weeks, Cruz won't get picky about his return.
"Every game is in my sights, to be honest," he said. "Every week, I'm trying to gauge it and see how it feels and kind of take steps and wake up in the morning and do the old calf raise test in bed and stuff like that. We'll see how it goes.
"Obviously, there is some optimism because of how far I've come to date and the obstacles that I've been able to hurdle and get over up until now. So there's definitely some optimism there, but obviously not just there yet. So we've got to take it one day at a time."
Aside from performing exercises that continue to strengthen the knee, Cruz has been relatively inactive.
"He's not doing anything out here yet," coach Tom Coughlin said of the practice field. "They're watching."
"Continue to work on the knee and strengthen around the knee on the right side and just continue to keep my wind up," Cruz said. "Continue to do pool workouts, continue to do certain exercises, continue to work on my wind just so I can stay in shape. But that's about it for now."
Cruz would have to prove on the practice field that he is ready to play in a game. The good news is, the PRP injection seems to have done exactly what Cruz, the doctors, and athletic trainers hoped.
"It feels different, it feels stronger." Cruz said. "I don't feel that initial pain anymore. When I would walk, I would feel it a little bit. I don't feel that anymore. So those are all good signs. But, obviously, my mind is I want to sprint, I want to do the treadmill, I want to do things. But they continue to keep me back until they give me 10 full days for the PRP to kind of set in.
"(It's) 10 days before I can have another conversation with the doctors about accelerating to the next level. So we'll see how it goes. They don't want me to do anything strenuous with the calf for 10 days, let the PRP shot settle in and work its magic, and go from there."
While he prepares for his return, Cruz can't help but reflect on the anniversary of the day he suffered the most serious injury of his career. He was running in the end zone in Lincoln Financial Field, preparing to catch an Eli Manning pass, when his tendon snapped. Cruz, in extreme pain, dropped to the ground and grabbed his knee. In an instant, his season had ended.
"Feels like yesterday that it happened and I was going through the rehab process." Cruz said. "It wasn't the funnest one, obviously. It's almost been a year and Philly is coming up around the corner as well. The irony is definitely setting in."
Cruz last practiced on Aug. 17. When he does return to the field, Cruz will be mindful of his calf and exercise caution.
"Essentially, you listen to the training staff, but it's your body," he said. "So you have to gauge it how you come along. Calves are a pretty tricky injury, so it's something you have to watch and be careful with."
Cruz long ago tired of the rehab process. He wants nothing more than to return to the field. He was set to do that last Wednesday, but had to remove himself during the individual drills portion of practice when he felt calf pain.
"It's been difficult," he said. "Obviously, emotionally more than mentally, because mentally I can hone into my injury and hone into the rehab process. But emotionally, it's like, again. It's something that set me back from being out there and that's tough. It's still tough for me, I'm still battling it every day, day to day. My teammates help me out being in here, these guys talking to me about keeping my head up, and things like that. Those guys help me."
That was never truer than last Sunday. Rueben Randle scored the Giants' second touchdown, and celebrated by breaking out Cruz's trademark salsa dance.
"That meant a lot, man," Cruz said. "As I watching, it put a smile on my face. It's just to know that my teammates and my receiving corps, specifically, are thinking about me and they know how bad I want to be out there with them, how bad I want to be in those trenches with them, and it really meant a lot for him to do that, more than he even knows."
Now Cruz wants to catch touchdown passes and do his own dancing. That's why he still hopes to play in Philadelphia.
"In my eyes, every game is realistic. Sunday, the next Sunday, Monday night - whatever game is the upcoming one, that's the one I'm looking at. That's the way I want to approach every week. I want to approach as if I'm getting ready to play; if the doctors tell me otherwise, then so be it."
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