The goal remains the same for Victor Cruz. The timeline, though, becomes, as he said, “clouded.”
Cruz was an early participant in Tuesday’s practice but took himself out of the action about halfway through when he felt tightness in his groin. He remained on the field with his teammates for the duration of the long, two-plus-hour workout but was clearly deflated when speaking with reporters afterward.
Here we go again?
“Not really,” he said. “I think I know the difference between something that is really bothering me, something that will take a long time, and something that is just normal football training camp kind of soreness, things that just come about as training camp goes on. But I’m not having those doubts or feelings in my mind right now.”
It’s hard for everyone else not to, though.
Last year, Cruz’s battle with a calf injury began in a similarly innocuous fashion. He sat out with some soreness, called it a “hiccup,” and wound up having surgery and missing the entire season. Cruz didn’t dismiss this groin injury — he even used the word “substantial” to describe it — but he remained confident he can still achieve what he wants to this season: To return to the field for the first time since October 2014 and play at the level fans were accustomed to seeing.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if that still was a reachable target.
As for when that might happen, Cruz was vague. He’ll almost certainly miss Friday’s preseason opener against the Dolphins, a game he said he assumed he would play in before the groin flared up (Ben McAdoo said it would be a day-to-day situation). There is still a month until the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 in Dallas, but even that is a date to which Cruz would not commit.
“I think the important thing is just my health in general, no matter when I’m ready, how I’m ready, whatever the case may be,” he said. “Obviously you look short-term and think ‘Dallas,’ but you just want to be ready whenever that time comes.”
It could very well wind up being a short-term matter. Cruz said he gets tightness in his groin just about every year in training camp and it normally takes him “a couple of days” to work through it. This time, after all he’s been through with the calf injury that nagged at him for so long, he decided he would listen to his body and not push.
“I didn’t want to potentially make it worse so I told the training staff and they shut me down,” he said. “I just have to listen to my body and make sure I’m going about this the right way. I don’t want to ignore something and have another major setback. Anytime I feel something that is substantial, something I don’t want to push through, I’m definitely going to let the training staff know. Just being smarter about things.”
Prior to the groin, Cruz said he felt “great” throughout camp. While he has yet to make any explosive plays, he has looked steady and his timing with Eli Manning seemed to be improving. Cruz said when the Giants reported to camp last month that he expected there to be a play at some point that told him he was back. It hasn’t happened yet.
“I’ve come close to that,” he said. “There have been a couple of routes or plays that I made . . . where I felt that feeling of being myself, I felt that change of direction, those cuts that feel like myself.”
Now, though, it may be a while before he gets to experience that feeling again. And at some point the bigger question will arise: Will he ever?