EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Victor Cruz said today he is full speed ahead to make his season debut Sunday in Buffalo.
"I'm convinced I'm playing Sunday," Cruz said after the Giants practiced following a rare weekend off.
But the always-cautious Tom Coughlin gently tapped the brakes on the notion that Cruz will definitely be in the lineup vs. the Bills.
Cruz worked on the side during the practice, and a better gauge will be provided when the team holds a more extensive workout on Wednesday.
"Hopefully, he'll be able to practice," Coughlin said. "If he practices and practices well, he'll be a good lift for us."
Cruz is understandably excited to return to the field for the 1-2 Giants, who defeated Washington last Thursday, 32-21. He has not played in a game in almost a year; last Oct. 12, he tore his right patellar tendon in Philadelphia. His long, arduous comeback was preceding steadily before Cruz strained his calf. That injury has kept him off the practice field since Aug. 17, and forced him to miss the first three games. He did not play in a preseason game.
"The knee was progressing very well," Coughlin said. "The incident is the calf, so let's get through both of them. The calf is the issue right now."
Cruz's on-field work consisted of running about 20 routes on the side under the direction of coordinator of rehabilitation Byron Hansen. The only drawback, he joked, was that, "David Tyree doesn't have the best arm, so that was a little bit of a struggle. But other than that, it was good."
The sixth-year pro believes he has no physical limitations, but knows the members of the athletic training staff will impose some. "(They) kind of want me to pace it to not just go from 0 to 100," Cruz said. "Just kind of take it and kind of go incremental throughout the week and get myself ready to play.
"I didn't feel anything today. It's held up very, very well. I guess all the progress and treatment I've done in here is kind of paying off a little bit."
Cruz was talking about his calf. Regarding his more serious injury, he said, "The knee felt great. I spent a lot of time in here working on it, getting it stronger throughout the time I wasn't on the practice field. And it feels good, man, I'm just happy everything started to click."
Cruz has missed 13 consecutive regular-season games, and spent untold hours rehabilitating his knee. It's a long, lonely and painful process. So this is an emotional time for Cruz, as he contemplates his return, lining up with fellow receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, and once again catching passes from Eli Manning.
The Giants are back at work Monday to prepare for the Bills
"Even driving in today, I was kind of like, 'Man, I'm driving in and I'm actually going to be putting a helmet on,'" Cruz said. "This is around the same time it all happened last year. It was a little emotional. I can't lie, there might be some emotions spread out there on the field Sunday as well.
"I think it's just a matter of the emotions and the anxieties and the adrenaline, that's what I have to get used to again. I haven't felt that in a little while. But everything else just feels good, I'm just ready to get my first catch out of the way so I can get going."
Defensive end Robert Ayers spoke for all of the Giants when he said it was good to see Cruz back on the field.
"Definitely, not only just the player he is, the leader he is, the type of person he is, the type of teammate he is," Ayers said. "When you know you have a good person like that that's battled back, it makes you want to play harder when you know how hard he's worked to get back out there. He's out there with you and it just gives you that extra pep. It's very encouraging to have guys that have been through things, an injury like his, to be out there, it's a positive for morale for the team, and also for making plays and winning."
Cruz isn't certain in what role he will be used against the Bills, nor does he seem terribly concerned about it.
"I just want to go out there, whatever the coaching staff is asking of me, just get that done," he said. "If they want me to come in on third down situations or however they want to get me involved, I just want to go in there, be myself, catch everything, run after the catch and just play well. I want to go out there and leave that game knowing that I played well and this is a stepping stone for the rest of the season."
He'll get no argument from his head coach.
"He's in a good place now," Coughlin said. "He feels good. He felt good when he ran over the weekend. He has no issues whatsoever, he's telling me. He's anxious to get back out on the field and play, and we're anxious to have him do that. You receive a setback from where he came, he's anxious to go."
- Cruz isn't the only player who will be closely scrutinized on Wednesday. Several other players who missed the Washington game, including Ayers (hamstring), Ereck Flowers (ankle) and Owa Odighizuwa (who has yet to play this season because of a foot injury) must show they have improved enough to get a uniform on Sunday.
"Our guys have to go through a full week of practice to prove that they're ready to go," Coughlin said. "That's a big day for a lot of these guys. To be able to come back, and remember Cruz was good once before and came back the second day and the second day is a longer and more difficult session because of that. They'll be well-tested by then."
- Flowers, the team's first-round draft choice and left tackle, was inactive vs. Washington.
"He was moving around, we'll see," Coughlin said. "He wants to go. He keeps telling me when I ask, 'How you doing?' 'Great. Everything's great.' He's pretty good at that."
Flowers said the extra time off after a Thursday game was "really helpful," and he is "working toward" playing in Buffalo.
Ayers, who also missed the Washington game, said, "I'm happy to be out here with my guys. Today won't be a real good indication of how things are going to be, but I'm definitely excited to be around my guys, have a couple days off, and most importantly, I'm happy that my guys won. I'm very proud of that and we'll see how the week goes as far as me."
- Coughlin was no different than millions of football fans yesterday – he spent the day and evening watching football. That gave him a chance to watch the Bills, who steamrolled the Dolphins in Miami, 41-14.
"They're a good football team," he said. "Obviously, they are. Defensively, they're very, very good; offensively, they're explosive, powerful, they can throw the ball and have multiple talented guys. They had a heck of a game."