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Victor Cruz on practicing against the Bengals: "I just wanted to play"

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Victor Cruz surprised by taking the field against the Cincinnati Bengals in team drills. How has he come through it, and what's next for the recovering receiver?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants completed their joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday. It was expected that Victor Cruz would travel with the team and do some work in practice, but only individual work against Giants' defenders.

The Giants have been true to their word about easing the star receiver back following the devastating injury he suffered in Philadelphia last season. So it was something of a surprise when Victor Cruz took the field in Wednesday's team period. His snap count was severely limited, but apparently it all went according to plan.

"No [Cruz did not lobby to get in the practice], coach had it in the plan for me to get a couple plays in at least while I was here, kind of two plays per period, and then cut me off around 7-on-7. It felt good, I was out there running around a little bit, everything felt kind of similar to what I had hoped, and I felt good in and out of breaks, getting open, and things like that. There was one communication error between Eli (Manning) and I, but no biggie."

Cruz's recovery isn't just physical, though the rehab from a torn patellar tendon is daunting, it is also mental. Cruz needs to overcome the fears and hurdles associated with each new test his knee faces. Getting out on a new practice field was one hurdle. Running routes and facing defenders in a live practice situation, against defenders from another team, is another hurdle -- and a significant one.

"...Coming out here, I kind of understood what we were doing. I knew we were going to take it easy in terms of what I was going to be doing individually, but I wanted to get a little bit against them. Get a little bit of a challenge, get a little bit of some head-to-head things against them, and I did that today and I felt good. It's tough to get into a rhythm when you only have two plays per period, it's hard to get warmed up for every period, but we made it happen."

The best news, of course, is that everything felt good for Cruz following his on-field work against the Bengals

"I have a lot of trust [in the knee]. Like I said, there's no pain, nothing hurts, it's just a matter of continuing to run routes, continue to get the familiarity back from what I remember, and things like that and keeping it going.

I just wanted to play, man. I was just kind of looking at the defense, it kind of just felt like the normal everyday thing, just another team in front of you. Nothing felt different it's just a matter of going out there and continuing to do."

Tom Coughlin confirmed after the Wednesday practice that Cruz would be sitting out the first preseason game against the Bengals, but Cruz still hopes to get some game time before the season begins.

"I'd love at least one game, a couple snaps, whatever they feel is right. I want to get little bit of work and get tackled a few times, and see how it feels and stuff like that, but that's about it.

I think that's pretty much it, game speed, game activity, getting tackled, getting up and getting back to the huddle for the next play and things like that. Getting into a rhythm I think that's next."

Regardless of Cruz's inactivity Friday night, his work this week can only be seen as a tremendous step forward in a difficult road to recovery.