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Giants' Victor Cruz aims to "be the same player that I once was"

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants
Victor Cruz
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who hasn't played in an NFL game since tearing his patellar tendon in the sixth game of the 2014 season, doesn't just want to return to game action in 2016. He wants to return as VICTOR CRUZ, one of the league's most dominant and exciting wide receivers.

"I’m not in the business to go out there and be half of myself or half of where I was. I want to go out there and be ready to go 100 percent and be the same player that I once was," Cruz said on Tuesday after the Giants' first of three voluntary mini-camp practices. "That’s the goal and I want to be able to build up to that and make sure that my body is responding to that level of what it once was. That’s definitely the goal, for sure."

Cruz did not take part in any of the individual or position drills, stretching with his team and then watching the rest of the workout. Not that he couldn't have run a few pass routes. After the knee injury cost him 10 2014 games and a torn calf muscle cost him the 2015 season, the Giants are playing it safe with the 29-year-old.

"He looks good. He’s moving around. He’s doing a lot of things. He’s certainly ready to go if we needed him to go today, but he’s going to go when we deem him ready to go," said head coach Ben McAdoo. "Victor has come a long way and we’re going to take small steps with him. It’s the third week of the offseason program. We don’t want to rush into anything there. We want to take our time and when he’s ready to go, we’ll put him back out there when we deem him ready to go."

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There were plenty of false starts for Cruz last season, first injuring the calf and then trying on a few occasions to begin practicing before finally having to shut down for good and opt for surgery. After waiting this long, Cruz is willing to follow whatever step-by-step program the Giants lay out for him.

"It’s been extremely difficult, as you may imagine, but obviously you’ve just got to stay the course. The key is not just to be ready for week one, but to be ready for all 16 (games) and into the playoffs. So that’s kind of where my mindset is to get my body ready for the long haul and not just for tomorrow and the day after that," Cruz said.

"Obviously if the regular season was tomorrow, I’d want to be out there. I’d be out there playing and doing what I can to help this team, but it’s not, fortunately for me. I have some time to continue to build and to continue to build upon the foundation that I’ve set for myself and my body to continue to work for. But I understand the training staff’s concerns in terms of wanting to continue to watch me work and watch me build to get to that ultimate goal, that’s training camp."

Cruz said he thinks about what he has been through "every single day," but that he still believes in his ability.

"I definitely believe in my abilities and believe in my talent level and believe that if I’m healthy, I’ll be out there alongside Odell and Eli and the rest of the offense, that I can compete at that high level and perform," Cruz said.

The Giants, who could use an additional play-maker at wide receiver and may still look to supplement that position in the upcoming 2016 NFL draft, certainly hope so.