Newly-signed New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said Monday afternoon that the 6-year, $46-million contract he signed earlier in the day has given him a feeling of "relief."
"I feel I can just kick back and play football again." Cruz said in a statement released by the Giants.
Cruz, a Paterson, N.J. native who fought his way to stardom after arriving in the NFL as an undrafted free agent from UMass, was emotional after contract was finalized.
"On the way here I was talking to my girlfriend (Elaina Watley)," Cruz said. "She said, ‘You fight 26 years all your life, up and down, going through the trials and tribulations, for this one day. To come from where I've come from - a lot of guys don't see graduation day in college, let alone this day in the National Football League. Words can't even describe how I feel. Words can't even describe the energy that's flowing through my body right now. It's a beautiful, great feeling."
Cruz has 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. He set the franchise's single-season record for yards receiving in 2011 with 1,536 and salsa-danced his way into the hearts of Giants' fans.
Worried that Cruz' work habits will change or that he won't be as motivated to succeed now that he has the big-money contract he sought? The proof will come on the field, but Cruz is confident his production won't change.
"This is just another step to getting where I want to be at the end of my career," said Cruz. "I love to do well for my team and do well each and every year and continue to prove myself and not feel complacent and not feel I've done enough. I want to continue to have catches and yards and touchdowns and help my team win and get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl.
"To do that in such an early part of my career was outstanding, but you want more, you want to continue to feel that. The work is just getting started for me. It's a whole new window of opportunity, a whole new world for me after this contract."
The 26-year-old is not concerned that he missed OTAs and mini-camp, although he admitted being away from his teammates "was the hardest part for me."
"I've been getting some local guys I played with to throw to me," he said. "I've been training. During the offseason program here, I was trying to develop an offseason workout for myself with my trainer. I feel like I'm ready to go. I feel like I'm prepared. I feel good and I'm excited.
"I think we'll be okay in terms of coming into camp. Eli and I have a great rapport. I think we're going to get together on our own before camp starts."
General manager Jerry Reese said the Giants were "pleased to have this behind us."
"Now Victor can focus on football. Training camp is approaching quickly, and we all have a lot of work to do to get back where we want to be."