Anytime a star player goes down it has a ripple effect on a team. In some instances it serves as a rallying cry for players to raise their level of performance and play an inspired brand of football, while others can’t overcome the loss of a talented leader and instead watch helplessly as the season spirals out of control.
When Victor Cruz suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles, all bets were off. A seemingly innocuous and routine pass pattern into the end zone culminated in a torn patellar tendon from a non-contact injury.
This particular setback is not an easy one to come back from and New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese understands the long road to recovery for Cruz.
"When a guy has a big injury like Victor had, you can't put all your eggs in his basket," Reese admitted. "Our doctors say he looks good. I see him down in the training room, working out with our trainers and our medical people, and he looks good. But his game is quickness. And until you get out there and move around, you never really know how he's going to recovery from that. We're hoping and praying that he'll come back 100 percent and be the Victor Cruz that we know, but you can't put 100 percent in that basket.”
There’s no question that the organization is reserving a spot in the starting lineup for the salsa dancing star, but the front office is preparing for the possibility that Cruz won’t be ready in time for the start of the season. While Cruz maintains that he could be back in time for the onset of training camp, No. 80 hasn’t even started running yet, which is the first major step in returning to the gridiron.
The timetable for his recovery has been estimated at 6-8 months, but the real concern is whether Cruz can regain the explosiveness and agility he showcased over his four stellar seasons with Big Blue. The injury to his right knee can be as much physical as it is mental. With rumblings from fans and reporters that his career could be in jeopardy, the 28-year-old receiver has been working tirelessly with the medical staff at the Giants training facility to rehab and battle back to full strength and speed.
While Cruz’s injury was an emotional blow to the Giants this past season, the emergence of rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. captured the attention of the country and gave hope to a frustrated fan base. With the NFL draft and free agency on the horizon, don’t be surprised if New York stockpiles talent at the wide receiver position in case Cruz is not back to his old self.
“We'll upgrade receiver. We'll try to upgrade that spot as well," Reese said. "If Victor's back, and Odell and Rueben, that's a pretty good core. And there are some other guys, [Preston] Parker, [Corey] Washington, some younger guys. But if there's a good receiver, guys, we'll draft him.”
The Giants have a number of question marks across the depth chart including the free agent statuses of safety Antrel Rolle, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, linebacker Jon Beason and running back Rashad Jennings just to name a few. The wide receiver spot might not be a top priority heading into April’s draft, but with the uncertainty surrounding Cruz’s return, Reese and company are not content putting all their eggs in one basket.