by: Steve Tichenor
Former Giant and Paterson, NJ native, Victor Cruz, has shown a lot of heart throughout his journey in the NFL. Just making it on a roster when you are not drafted is tough enough, but becoming a star, that is quite a feat.
And that is just what Cruz did. After going undrafted in 2010 out of UMass, the receiver was signed as a free agent with the Giants, but missed his rookie season due to a hamstring injury.
In 2011 he broke out and became one of the most productive wideouts in the league with 82 receptions and 9 touchdowns. In 2012 he had 86 receptions and 10 touchdowns and made it to the Pro Bowl. He became a fan favorite in New York with his signature salsa dancing after each touchdown.
But the salsa dancing stopped and a spate of injuries started at the end of the 2013 season. He hurt his knee in week 15, which required surgery. At the beginning of the 2014 season he suffered a devastating injury when he tore his patella tendon in his right knee. Cruz went through an arduous rehab of the knee for the remainder of 2014, only to pull a calf muscle upon his return in 2015.
After more rehab he returned in 2016, and managed to stay on the field for all but one game. He was respectable but unspectacular with 39 receptions for 586 yards and only 1 TD. With the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, Cruz was considered expendable by the Giants and was released after the 2016 season after seven seasons with the team.
Since his release, Cruz has been adamant that he has more football left in him saying, “I think there is still a lot of miles left on this body. I’ll definitely be searching and looking for work as the time comes.”
But where? Early in the off season he was considered an ideal fit for the Carolina Panthers, but nothing ever materialized and that rumor cooled down as others heated up.
Cruz is expected to visit the Jaguars which is no surprise. The Jags are in need of depth at receiver and Cruz has ties to his former coach Tom Coughlin who is in charge in Jacksonville. Baltimore is also a possible landing spot. The Ravens had a poor offensive year last season and Joe Flacco could use more targets. A veteran like Cruz could fit in nicely. The Bears are also in the conversation.
It’s easy to root for Cruz. He showed guts and resiliency working his way back from injuries that have ended the career of many. After all that work to get back, why hang em up now? With age and injuries he’s lost a step, but he’s finally healthy and he feels like he can help a team looking for a veteran presence. He deserves a shot. After all he’s been through, it’s hard to question that heart.
photos: Carolina Blitz, New York Daily News