EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Victor Cruz is used to being targeted, but not like this.
Cruz, who has caught 264 Eli Manning passes in his career, is now frequently on the receiving end of queries from excited Giants fans eager to see him team-up with Odell Beckham Jr.
"If I get another question somewhere out in the streets about how excited everyone is about myself and Odell, I might just jump off a building," Cruz said today.
He might want to find a soft place to land, because the questions won't stop. It seems everyone is excited to see how electrifying and productive the Giants' offense can be with Cruz and Beckham playing at the same time. That took place for only six quarters last season, because Beckham missed the first four games with a hamstring injury and Cruz suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon in Beckham's second game.
In Cruz' absence, Beckham became Manning's go-to receiver and had a season for the ages. He was the first Giants player to ever win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, which he earned by catching 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, all franchise rookie records.
Cruz has been feverishly rehabbing his knee and is confident he will be ready for the Giants' season opener on Sept. 13 in Dallas.
"There is not a doubt in my mind that I will be back out there playing on the field," Cruz said. "Obviously, it is just a matter of getting myself back to 100 percent. As of right now, there is zero doubt in my mind that I will be playing in that first game and continuing to be at 100 percent playing at the level that I like to be playing at."
Beckham knows that Cruz's presence will force opposing defenses to pay less attention to him.
"It is going to be a lot easier," Beckham said. "You can't really do the things you usually do, whether it is put a safety over the top or things like that, because you have Vic and Rueben (Randle), who are both guys who are going to be successful at what they do. If you put them one-on-one, I trust (them) to win one-on-one 99.99 percent of the time. It is what it is. I would put them against anybody. That is our mindset."
Cruz was a Pro Bowler in 2012, his last full season, and general manager Jerry Reese is cautiously optimistic the receiver will again play at that rarified level.
"I don't think you can have certainty," Reese said. "He looks good. He is running pretty good right now. He is scheduled to be back for the opener for us, but until you get out there and turn it loose, you never know what a guy is going to do. He looks great right now."
Cruz, who caught 23 passes last season before he was hurt, has come a long way, but concedes he still has ground to cover before he's ready to play.
"I have been running straight line for almost a month now," Cruz said. "I haven't done any cutting yet. My knee feels good and is getting better every day. I am continuing to build the strength back in it and working hard in the weight room and rehabilitation room - just staying the course.
"(The) next step is cutting. Just figuring out when that is and listening to the training staff and listening to my body, as well about figuring out the right time to start cutting and things like that. We will see how it goes, but it is all under how (the training staff) sees fit and my timing in progressing to the next steps."
When Beckham's balky hamstring forced him to miss his rookie preseason and the first four regular-season games, Cruz counseled him to keep working and stay focused. Now the youngster tries to do the same for Cruz while understanding exactly how excited the veteran is to return.
"I know it is definitely a good feeling for him," Beckham said. "It is the same as when I was out and he was telling me to just stay patient and whatever it is, just keep working on something else. Whatever you can't work on – I know how hard it is to have to watch your buddies and peers be able to do something and you are not ready to do it and being a competitor and an athlete, you want to push yourself. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you and your body and make sure that when (Cruz) comes back, he is a full-go. It is kind of the same thing he was telling me. Stay patient and don't try to push it if it isn't ready. I am definitely looking forward to seeing him back."
Beckham isn't ready to jump off a building, but he understands why so many people connected with the Giants want to see the two receivers on the field together.
"I think it was kind of something that we expected last year, and everybody, for that matter, expected," he said. "No one comes into this and doesn't want to be the best at what they do. I think that goes for any profession. You want to be the best at what you do, so you are going to set the goals as high as possible and you are going to go for them."
In 2014, Beckham had the best season by a rookie receiver in NFL history – in just 12 games. So what can he do to top that?
"I guess," he said, "we'll have to wait and see."