EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It had been so long since he took the field with his New York Giants teammates that when Victor Cruz took the field for individual drills at the start of Tuesday's minicamp the sight of No. 80 was greeted with calls of "who's the new guy?" from his teammates.
Cruz took part in a couple of individual drills at the beginning of practice, running routes against air. Meaning with no defender. Cruz was also generally at something less than full speed He also took part in the walk-thru portion near the end of practice. He did not participate in the 7-on-7 portion of the workout, when action was live.
"We're right at that turning point," Cruz said after practice. "Finally getting back out on the field. Finally running some routes ... it's definitely a step in the right direction."
Coach Ben McAdoo called Cruz's participation in practice, albeit on an extremely limited basis, "another small step" for Cruz.
McAdoo had been consistent in saying he did not expect Cruz to practice until training camp, but said Tuesday that "we felt it was time to take the next step."
Cruz said the first time he ran routes at full speed was Friday. Since he recovered well from that the training staff green-lighted him to work during minicamp.
Like a kid at Christmas, Cruz said he work up at 5:15 a.m. anxious to get on the field with his teammates for the first time in 2016.
"I was excited to be out there with my teammates doing something," Cruz said.
The 29-year-old said he wanted to get a bit of work in during minicamp "for my mindset."
"Just for me to know that I can still do what I'm accustomed to doing. That I can still run routes, I still feel good that I can make a sharp cut and everything feels the same and nothing hurts," Cruz said. "It was definitely a mental thing for me."
After a scary injury knee injury in Philadelphia way back in 2014, Cruz' odyssey back to the football field has been well covered, and speculated about. The New York Giants' star slot receiver came close last year, at one point looking so good that beat writers proclaimed that if they hadn't seen him injured, they wouldn't have known he was injured.
But then a calf injury put his comeback on hold, and so far this offseason Cruz has been on the sidelines.
Over the weekend, Cruz told reporters that it was possible that the team might turn him loose, if only a bit, during this week's minicamp. That came to pass on Tuesday.
"I just want to put it all behind me, put everything out there on the field and continue to do my best," said Cruz, adding that he hopes to have no restrictions when the Giants report for training camp on July 28.
"I feel good. I'm just about there," Cruz said. "It was a good day."
Cruz really didn't do much on Tuesday, but the fact that he did anything at all is a positive sign. He did run a couple of short routes pretty crisply, but a lot of what he did was still at less than full speed. Cruz added during his press conference that he still hasn't run the full route tree, and that he still hasn't really tested himself on deeper routes.
What everyone really wants to know is can Cruz still separate from cornerbacks? Can he still cut on a dime? Can he make defenders miss once he has the ball? Will there be any hesitation at all in traffic, or in contorting his body to try and make difficult catches?
We can't answer those things yet. Tuesday, though, was another small hurdle for Cruz to clear in what has been an excruciatingly long, difficult comeback.