EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Victor Cruz really didn’t care about his statistics after the Giants played the Jets in their annual preseason game.
The line for the 29-year-old wide receiver read: 32 plays, targeted on two passes, with one reception for 4 yards.
It was unproductive, yet Cruz could not help but smile after the Giants’ 21-20 win on Saturday night.
Cruz had played in a game for the first time since the 2014 season, and that’s all that mattered to the wideout who was one of the NFL’s most feared receivers from 2011-13. The knee injury that ended the ’14 season and a calf problem that sidelined him last year were things of the past.
Even the crowd at MetLife Stadium was into his return, chanting “Cruzzzz.”
“It was unreal,” Cruz said. “It kind of gave me goosebumps.”
Even though he felt rusty, Cruz was excited.
“It felt good to put that jersey on again and go out there with my teammates, from the warmup, the pregame, and then during the game to be in the position to make a play and be out there running routes against an opponent, it felt good,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s only catch came on a quick pass to the right from Eli Manning on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
“That ball felt like it was forever in the air before it got to my hands, but it was good to kind of catch that ball and get a little contact, get a little hit out of bounds, and hopefully I can build on that,” Cruz said. “But it was definitely good to get one in.”
Cruz got a step on the secondary early in the second quarter, but Manning was under pressure and underthrew the receiver.
“I had to come, turn back inside and kind of go after the ball,” Cruz said. “Thought I had a shot until I saw (Marcus) Gilchrist come late, but I definitely had a step on the DB at the time. So I think if Eli was untouched I think we had a shot.”
The Jets treated Cruz with some respect. Cornerback Darrelle Revis lined up opposite him on several plays.
“I think he looks fine,” Revis said of Cruz. “I just think, especially with a major knee injury, your mind plays tricks on you because you’re scared to make a certain cut because you got injured. The injury’s always replaying back. I’m sure after he continues to strengthen it and keeps on getting stronger, he’ll be back to the old Victor Cruz that we always used to see.”
The Giants (1-2) finish the preseason at home Thursday night against New England. It’s a game that starters usually don’t play much, if at all.
Cruz, however, wants to play in what could be considered his final tuneup before the season opener at Dallas.
“Do I need to play? I think it’s just a matter of continuing to understand what we want to accomplish as a team and as a game plan and from a receiving corps,” Cruz said. “I think I can go out there Sept. 11 and be OK.”
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said it would have been nice to get Cruz the ball earlier in the game, but he felt the receiver looked comfortable and confident.
Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed to this report.