May 122015
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Victor Cruz Begins Running Routes: New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz told reporters on Tuesday evening that he has begun running pass routes. Cruz is recovering from a patellar tendon tear in his right knee that he suffered last October in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The injury and ensuing surgery have cast doubt in some on Cruz’s NFL future.

“Today we ran some routes and stuff like that, some intermediate stuff, some cutting, planting left and right and it felt good,’’ said Cruz. “I think the more I run routes, the more I continue to do it, the more confidence I build in my knee. I’m just excited to continue that and it feels very, very good right now.’’

Cruz is not yet running at full speed. He estimated “about three-quarters speed.”

“(I am ) doing some agility stuff, some lateral movement stuff,” said Cruz. “Knee’s feeling great, it’s responding well, there’s no swelling after agility days, things like that. It’s feeling good.

“It’s all mental at this point. The knee is strong, the muscles around it are strong, it’s just mental now in terms of just mentally now can I believe in what my knee can do and be able to trust it and move on.’’

Cruz’s target to return to the practice field remains summer training camp.

“There haven’t been any major setbacks,’’ Cruz said. “Obviously I come in sore one day here or there and they say ‘We’ll scale it back,’ things like that. But no major setbacks to where we have to push back a week or two or anything like that, thank God.

“I’m in no rush at all. I think it’s just a matter of this is the process that we’re in (of) the recovery. The plan is still intact. I just go in there day to day and (the trainers) tell me what to do.”

Article on OT Sean Donnelly: Pelham’s Sean Donnelly Looks To Make Giant Impression In The NFL by Andrea Graziano of the Pelham Daily Voice

Article on DT Carlif Taylor: New York Giants sign Division 2 standout Carlif Taylor by Antwan Staley of Examiner.com

Article on S Landon Collins: Rookie safety Landon Collins impressing Giants as take-charge guy by Tom Rock of Newsday

May 082015
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (June 11, 2013)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

MAY 8, 2015 NEW YORK GIANTS ROOKIE MINI-CAMP REPORT…
The first day of the New York Giants three-day rookie mini-camp began on Friday. Sixty-six players – draft picks, signed rookie free agents, first-year players who have not completed a season of credited service, and street and rookie free agent tryout players – were in attendance.

PARTICIPANTS…

2015 NFL Draft Picks (6):

  • OL Ereck Flowers, University of Miami
  • S Landon Collins, University of Alabama
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
  • FS Mykkele Thompson, University of Texas
  • WR Geremy Davis, University of Connecticut
  • OG Bobby Hart, Florida State University

2015 Signed Rookie Free Agents (6):

  • HB Akeem Hunt, Purdue University
  • TE Matt LaCosse, University of Illinois
  • OT Sean Donnelly, Tulane University
  • DE Brad Harrah, University of Cincinnati
  • LB Cole Farrand, University of Maryland
  • S Justin Currie, Western Michigan University

New York Giants First-Year Players (10):

  • FB Nikita Whitlock
  • TE Jerome Cunningham
  • OC Brett Jones
  • OT Michael Bamiro
  • DE Jordan Stanton
  • LB Uani Unga
  • LB Ryan Jones
  • CB Bennett Jackson
  • S Thomas Gordon
  • PK Chris Boswell

Tryout Players (44):

  • QB Gary Nova, Rutgers
  • QB Taylor Graham, Hawaii
  • QB Pete Thomas, Louisiana-Monroe
  • RB Reggie Whatley, Middle Tennessee St.
  • RB Anthony Cade, Lindenwood
  • RB Kenneth Harper, Temple
  • WR Taylor Belsterling, Huntington (Ala.) College
  • WR Lemar Durant, Simon Fraser University
  • WR Ben Edwards, Richmond
  • WR Derrick Johnson, Maine
  • WR Chris Perkins, Middle Tennessee State
  • WR Addison Richards, University of Regina
  • WR Andrew Robustelli, Jacksonville
  • TE Justin Jones, East Carolina
  • TE Matt Marfisi, Tulane
  • TE Will Tye, Stony Brook
  • OC Sean McEwen, University of Calgary
  • OG Sukh Chungh, University of Calgary
  • OG Mario Rodriguez, Western Michigan
  • OT Danny Groulx, Laval (Canada)
  • OT Kevin Murphy, Harvard
  • OT Jacob Ruby, Richmond
  • OT Richard Washington, Morehouse
  • DE Brad Bars, Penn State
  • DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
  • DT Donte Rumph, Kentucky
  • DT Carlif Taylor, Southern Connecticut
  • DT Rakeem Knight, Bethue-Cookman
  • DT Daryl Waud, University of Western Ontario
  • LB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • LB Byron Archambault, University of Montreal
  • LB Ron Omara, St. Francis Xavier
  • LB Takari Johnson, Concordia-Ann Arbor
  • CB Ian Williams, Fordham
  • CB Marc Anthony, California
  • CB Tevaughn Campbell, University of Regina (Saskatchewan)
  • CB Qua Cox, Jackson State
  • CB Willie Creear, Eastern Michigan
  • CB Thomas Finnie, Bethune-Cookman
  • CB Tyree Hollins, Grambling
  • S Chris Ackie, Wilfred Laurier
  • S C.J. Conway, Montclair State
  • P Bobby Cowan, Idaho
  • LS Luke Ingram, Hawaii

NEWLY SIGNED…
The New York Giants announced that they have officially signed DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, their 3rd round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. S Mykkele Thompson (5th round) and OG Bobby Hart (7th round) signed on Thursday.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Bennett Jackson appears to have been moved from cornerback to safety. However, Tom Coughlin said Chykie Brown will remain at cornerback for now. The starting safeties were Landon Collins and Jackson. Collins spent time as the deep safety.
  • “Tight end Jerome Cunningham, who spent time on the practice squad last year, had a busy day and hauled in a handful of catches.” (Giants.com)
  • The starting offensive line was LT Ereck Flowers-LG Michael Bamiro-OC Brett Jones-RG Bobby Hart-RT Sean Donnelly. (Giants.com)
  • “The first-round pick (Erick Flowers) is huge (6-6, 329) and carries his weight so incredibly well. He moves effortless for a player that size, and it’s obvious he’s on a different level athletically than the rest of the linemen.” (NJ.com)
  • Multiple reports said DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa flashed very good first-step quickness.
  • Rookie tryout player WR Andrew Robustelli is the grandson of New York Giants Hall of Fame DE Andy Robustelli.
  • Rookie tryout player QB Taylor Graham is the son of former New York Giants quarterback Kent Graham.
  • Former New York Giants RB Brandon Jacobs and S Deon Grant were on hand to watch practice.

VICTOR CRUZ SIGHTING…
While he did not practice, WR Victor Cruz was spotted by the media rehabbing the torn patellar tendon in his right knee. “I just watched Victor Cruz go through a vigorous indoor workout, with lots of stopping and cutting. Impressive,” tweeted The New York Post.

HEAD COACH TOM COUGHLIN…
Tom Coughlin addressed the media after the morning practice (video is available at Giants.com). Some points of note:

  • On why he likes OT Ereck Flowers: “His athleticism. His ability to run, to pull, to run, his pass protection and the fact he is a big man that (defenders) are going to have to navigate a lot to get around him. Strong.”
  • On S Landon Collins: “Basically a guy who, as I saw today, went back to what I really do believe and that is that he can play in the middle of the field. He can play in the deep half as well as come down and be a physical force in the tackle box.”
  • On why the coaches have been informing the new players about the history of the New York Giants defense: “The tradition. The passion. The Giant tradition. The great defenses that have been played here in the past. The idea that we have to get back to that.”

PLAYERS SPEAK…
The following video clips of player media Q&A are available at Giants.com:

  • OC Brett Jones (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (Video)
  • S Mykkele Thompson (Video)
  • WR Geremy Davis (Video)
  • OG Bobby Hart (Video)
  • QB Gary Nova (Video)
  • WR Andrew Robustelli (Video)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa on coming to the Giants (from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense): “Yeah, anytime you are in a ‘43’ system and your linemen are asked to attack up field and wreak havoc it is always exciting. I feel like my skill set is definitely fitting for that type of defense, so I am excited about it. I think it is going to be great for me and I am going to bring a lot to the defense. Working hard every day and staying versatile and staying coachable.”
  • S Bennett Jackson on converting to safety: “At the end of the day, I am a (defensive back). I think my strengths are my cover skills. I have good speed and great ball skills. The thing that it is going to take for me to get out there and make an impact is I have to learn the defense and communicate the calls fluently. That is really the main thing with learning a new defense, you just have to be accountable and allow people to trust that you are going to be out there and get the job done.”

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May 042015
 
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Jerry Reese Says Victor Cruz is at 85-90 Percent: During a post-draft interview on WFAN Radio on Monday, New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said that wide receiver Victor Cruz was at 85-90 percent recovered from the patellar tendon tear in his right knee that he suffered in October 2014.

“We think Victor is going to come back at 100 percent,” said Reese. “He’s doing really great.”

“We feel really good about Victor, he’s working hard every day,” continued Reese. “I was down there watching him work out a couple of days before the draft. He’s excited, he’s jumping up on boxes as tall as he is, almost, so he must be doing pretty good for me. We think he’s probably 85, close to 90 percent right now, but they’re taking him at a snail’s pace just so he won’t have any setbacks.

“We expect him to walk out in Dallas (on opening day) and play for us.”

The audio of Reese’s remarks, including his take on the team’s six 2015 NFL draft picks, is available at CBS New York.

Articles on S Landon Collins:

Articles on the New York Giants and the NFL Draft:

Apr 272015
 
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New York Giants Waive Running Back Michael Cox: The New York Giants have waived running back Michael Cox.

Cox was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Giants. In 2013, he played in 14 games as a rookie with one start, carrying the football 22 times for 43 yards (2.0 yards per carry) and catching three passes for 12 yards. Most of his work came on special teams where he returned 20 kickoffs for a 21.8 yards-per-return average.

In 2014, Cox was on the Practice Squad of the team until October, played in four games, and was then placed on Injured Reserve in November 2014 with a fractured lower leg. He finished 2013 with four carries, two catches, and 11 kickoff returns.

The Giants now are currently carrying five halfbacks on the roster, including Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, and Chris Ogbonnaya.

Because of this move, we have updated the Transactions, Roster, and Depth Chart sections of the website.

Articles on QB Eli Manning:

Article on QB Eli Manning and WR Victor Cruz: Eli Manning hopeful Victor Cruz will be able to return by Tom Rock of Newsday

Article on WR/Returner Dwayne Harris: What the Giants saw in Dwayne Harris by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Article on the New York Giants and the 2015 NFL Draft: Giants look for attitude in linemen, not necessarily finesse or beef by Tom Rock of Newsday

Article on Former New York Giants OG Chris Snee: Chris Snee helps Giants evaluate offensive linemen by Tom Rock of Newsday

Apr 232015
 
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Jerry Reese, New York Giants (February 21, 2015)

Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jerry Reese’s 2015 Pre-Draft Press Conference: New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese held his annual pre-draft press conference today. The following is the transcript from the event (video is also available courtesy of Giants.com):

Q: Who are you picking?

A: A good player at nine.

Q: In a year like this and with some of the things that went on last year in the NFL, how much more important or different is the way you look at a player’s character and behavior when you are assessing them? Has that changed?

A: I think we are always mindful of a player’s character and background. That always goes into the equation. It is not really anything new for us. Obviously, like all teams, we have taken some guys on the back end of the roster, more risk-reward kind of situations on the back end of the roster. We are very conscious and have been for a long time about backgrounds and character.

Q: That seems to have changed last year when you guys wanted a lot of clean players… Whereas in the past you would have taken…?

A: The thing you have to think about when you are thinking about these young players is that they are young. They do young kid stuff. You can’t just absolutely kill them. You wouldn’t have anyone to draft. Kids do kid things and do college things and it happens. If a guy has a long list of issues, that is when you have to throw the red flag in there. Is this guy going to stop? If you have a couple things that college kids do, you can’t just throw it away.

Q: Is there anything concrete you do with that or is it just an eyeball test?

A: We do all the background checks and our scouts go out and dig the information that we can. We interview them and try to put it all together and make a decision on it.

Q: Is it kind of three strikes and you are out?

A: Not necessarily, it depends on how egregious the off-field issues are, more than anything else probably.

Q: Last year you seemed to have a guy pegged or a couple guys you thought would be available… Is it more unpredictable being at nine?

A: I think you always have a good idea, but it is always unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen. You can look up and some of those quarterbacks they think are going to be in the first couple picks could be – not off the board until 15 or 20. You never know. I learned that a long time ago in the draft. Funny things can happen, so expect everything to happen.

Q: Last year the wide receiver corps turned out to be a really good group… There are a lot of thoughts that this wide receiving corps could be just as good… Thoughts?

A: I think there are good receivers, just as there were last year. I think that is every year. I think there are good players at every position every year. I don’t know if that is a good answer or not, but I think there are good wide receivers…I think there are good players at every position.

Q: Given you have a lot of depth at receiver, would you have any qualms about drafting another receiver?

A: First of all, as soon as you say you have a lot of depth at any position, you don’t have depth. I know better than to say that. We will draft the best player available for us. It really doesn’t matter what position it is.

Q: How do you look at your offensive line at this point? Do you look at it saying you need to supplement it at least during one day of the draft?

A: Every position. We want to try and upgrade every position as best we can every opportunity we get. Offensive line won’t be excluded from that as well.

Q: In your mind right now, what does your offensive line look like? Is Justin Pugh still at right tackle?

A: That is something for Tom. You have to talk to Tom about that. Obviously Pugh has been a starter and is going to be a starter somewhere more than likely. [Geoff] Schwartz is coming back from injury. Hopefully he can fit in there somewhere. What we want to do is get as many good players as we can and create as much competition as we can in the offensive line.

Q: When you are picking as high as you are, is there a sense of a guy having to fit in at a premium position? In the past, you wouldn’t have drafted linebacker in the first round, but guys like defensive backs, wide receivers and left tackles… Is that part of your thinking when you are as high as you are?

A: If you draft at nine, whoever it is, is a premium position, regardless of the position that he is. If you draft at nine, it is a premium position, regardless of what it is. It doesn’t matter what position. If you draft him at nine, he is a guy you expect to come in and play and play quickly.

Q: Has the profile of offensive linemen changed at all in the last decade at all?

A: We just look for good players. Good profiles. Good players. Strong. Big, strong, fast and smart.

Q: The big lineman from Iowa is a guy everyone seems to love as a guard prospect… What do you see from him?

A: I think he can play both. I think he can play tackle and he can play guard. I think he can play somewhere.

Q: Where do you see him?

A: The coaches will have to figure that out.

Q: How do you look at this group of pass rushers?

A: There are some good pass rushers and edge rushers available.  Are you asking me to stack them or something like that? I can’t do that, but I do think there are some good pass rushers in this draft.

Q: You haven’t made a ton of trades as compared to other teams throughout the years… How do you explain that? Is that the way things worked out?

A: We will keep all of our options open on the draft. We can trade up and we can trade down. That doesn’t change. We are not looking to trade just to try to be cute to trade up or down. If we think we have an opportunity to move up, then we will move up. If we have an opportunity to move back, then we will do that as well.

Q: Back around the combine, in regards to Victor Cruz, you said you couldn’t think of him as a sure thing… Have you seen anything from him where you can have some kind of certainty of how he will be when he comes back?

A: I don’t think you can have certainty. [Cruz] looks good. He is running pretty good right now. He is scheduled to be back for the opener for us, but until you get out there and turn it loose, you never know what a guy is going to do. He looks great right now.

Q: Are you still approaching whatever he can give you guys next year as a ‘bonus?’

A: I am not counting it as a bonus, but I want to be prepared if he is not here.

Q: Is there any change in your perspective in the preparation on your part when you pick ninth instead of 12th like last year and going back to the Super Bowl when you picked last?

A: We just stack the board. Whoever we think the best player is in the first row, it doesn’t matter what position, which is how we do it. We stack them the same way. If you pick inside 12 picks, you should get a good football player.

Q: Does the expectation change as far as impact goes?

A: The higher you pick – that is how the system is. If you pick high in the draft – that is the way the whole system is built. If you pick high in the draft, you are supposed to get better players to help you have a better football team. If you are picking last in the draft, you get penalized for being successful. You get penalized, so you get lesser players. Whoever you pick at nine should be a better player than you pick at 32. That is the way the system is and obviously we are picking nine and expect to get a good player.  A really good player.

Q: Another general manager said there were eight to ten players who were real difference makers above other guys… Do you have a point in your estimation of how many guys are at a higher level than the rest of the group?

A: I think there is always a break. Everyone in the first row – that is why we call them rows; they are not first round picks. There are natural breaks. There may be eight and then there may be five more players, then there is another break. There are always breaks in the first row where you stack them, but you have to have 32 players in the first round.

Q: Where is that first break?

A: We’ll see.

Q: How are you looking at your safety position right now? Do you think it is a position of need?

A: We are not going to make do, just like any position, we are going to try to upgrade that position. Just like the rest of the positions. We are not going to make do. We have some young players that we think have some talent, but we are going to continue to try and upgrade that position as well.

Q: Last year we were saying you needed to get a tight end and you felt confident with some of the young guys… Is it the same thing now?

A: Every position we want to upgrade. We want to upgrade safety. We want to have competition at that position like we want to have at every position and we will try to do that.

Q: Tom talked about the possibility of converting Chykie Brown or Bennett Jackson to safety… Is that realistic in your mind and what goes into that?

A: It happens all the time. One of the best players we tried to get in free agency was the corner from New England. He was a corner and played safety. You see those conversions. That is not new to see something like that happen. That is a possibility as well.

Q: Are [Brown and Jackson] guys who could possibly convert in your eyes?

A: I think so. You never know. You have to experiment in the spring. Obviously you would like to get a guy who has played there and done the job, but you have to be creative in this day and age with your personnel.

Q: You went after [Devin] McCourty, so you wanted to upgrade that position… What happened after that? Do you look at Josh Gordy as a safety?

A: That is what he plays.

Q: What was the plan at that position after McCourty?

A: We thought he was the best player in free agency [at his position] and after that we thought there was a drop off and that is what happened.

Q: Now that Eli is back in the building and he said his attitude is to play the year and go from there… What is your thought on his contract?

A: It is inappropriate to talk about a contract right now. Eli is back in the building. He looks great. He is happy to be back. We are glad he is back. We will address that when it is appropriate.

Q: Do you sense that this a real opportunity for Eli this offseason, given that he is not coming off ankle surgery and he has already been in this offense for a year?

A: Yeah, I am excited. It should be a big year for him. He is not learning the offense. A lot of the players were in the offense last year. He’ll get another piece back hopefully with Victor Cruz coming back. The tight ends will have a little bit more experience. I hope the offense – we got [Shane] Vereen, who we think is a good piece to help our offense as well. I think our offense should be a pretty good offense.

Q: Re: Thought process in the signings of Vereen, [Dwayne] Harris, [J.T.] Thomas… What were you after?

A: We were trying to upgrade some positions that we already had. We knew we were going to lose some players. We felt Vereen was a really nice piece. Everyone knows what he does as a receiver out of the backfield, he can run the ball. He is a professional football player back there. He is really good on third down. Really good on any down, to be honest. We thought he would be a nice piece. Went after him and the two linebackers. We thought they were upgrades. They will battle for starting positions. Dwayne Harris, we thought the guy was kind of a four to five tool type player for us. We thought we were getting a lot of players out of one position. We played against him for a long time and he has been a good player for [Dallas]. Hopefully he will bring it over here to us and he will play for us in those capacities.

Q: Where do you view J.T. Thomas’s best position?

A: I don’t know. It is up to the coaches. He looked like a WILL linebacker to me, but that is up to the coaches.

Q: Are you still hoping to get Stevie Brown back?

A: We are going to keep all our options open.

Q: As one of the teams in the league that isn’t quarterback-needy, do you even look at those top two guys?

A: We look at everybody. You never say you aren’t quarterback-needy. You can’t say those kinds of things. Ralph just said we were deep at receiver and you are saying we don’t need a quarterback. I know better than to say something like that.

Q: What is your take on the two quarterbacks at the top of the draft?

A: They are good players. They are both good players. They are both different, but I think they are both, in what they do, I think they are both good players.

Q: Is your expectation that they are going to go one and two?

A: I don’t expect anything. Expect the unexpected in the draft. They may not go until 15, who knows?

Q: You have gone offense the last three years in the first round… Does that go into any decision making?

A: I didn’t even know that. Whoever the best player is at nine – we are going to pick them.

Q: Do you have any concern over Jason Pierre-Paul not being here for the offseason program and not signing the tender yet?

A: It is voluntary and it is inappropriate to talk about player contracts at this point in time. It is not mandatory that he should be here.

Q: After you get an Odell [Beckham Jr.]  and everything that he did in his first season and now you are picking at nine, are there heightened expectations?

A: You always want to get good players in the draft. Sometimes you hit on a guy like Odell and he is a terrific player, but the higher you pick, the better the player should be. When you are picking on the back end, it is obviously not the same caliber.

Q: When you look back at last year’s draft, from top to bottom, how do you evaluate it?

A: We don’t really look back on that draft that much. We draft them and that draft is over. We are moving on to this draft and we are excited about the players in this draft. We go back after two or three years and look and see why a guy made it or why a guy didn’t make it. After one year, it is really hard to evaluate.

Q: Was the approach different in the past two drafts?

A: No.

Q: This week, have you checked in with Odell and how his hamstring is feeling?

A: I just saw Odell a couple of minutes ago down in the weight room. He looks great and he didn’t say a word about his hamstring.

Q: Do you have any injuries that are long-term concerns?

A: There will be a couple guys we have concerns with, but we feel good about the vast majority of our players being ready to go for training camp.

New York Giants Player Q&As: Video clips of Thursday’s media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Apr 132015
 
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Zack Bowman, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Cornerback Zack Bowman Signs With Miami Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins have signed New York Giants unrestricted free agent cornerback Zack Bowman.

Bowman was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Bears. In six seasons with the Bears, Bowman played in 73 regular-season games with 23 starts. The Giants signed Bowman as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. He played in all 16 games with five starts but saw his playing time decrease as the season progressed despite all of the injuries that hit the secondary. He finished the year with 24 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass defenses.

Bowman is the fifth unrestricted free agent to leave the Giants this offseason, joining linebacker Spencer Paysiner (Dolphins), tackle James Brewer (Jets), safety Antrel Rolle (Bears), and cornerback Walter Thurmond (Eagles). For an overview of the teams’ offseason free agent activity, see the 2015 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

Article on Wide Receivers Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham: Giant receivers Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz planning TD celebration for next season by Ebenezer Samuel of The New York Daily News

Article on the New York Giants Offensive Line: A pre-draft look at the Giants’ offensive line by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Apr 102015
 
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Victor Butler, Dallas Cowboys (November 17, 2011)

Victor Butler – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebacker Victor Butler Suspended by NFL: The NFL has suspended New York Giants linebacker Victor Butler for four games for violating the League’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Butler can participate in Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, training camp, and the preseason before sitting out the first four games of the year. That is, if he makes the team.

Butler was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Since then, he has spent time with the Cowboys (2009-12), Saints (2013), Cardinals (2014), and Colts (2014). Butler missed the 2013 season with a torn ACL knee injury that he suffered during training camp that year. The Giants signed Butler to a Reserve/Future contract in January 2015.

Butler has played in 65 games with two starts with a total of 91 tackles, 11 sacks, four pass defenses, and four forced fumbles.

Victor Cruz Injury Update: New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was interviewed by by Complex.com and provided the following injury update:

“(The patella tendon knee injury suffered in October 2014 is) definitely is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to go through in my life,” said Cruz. “Still currently going through it. It’s not easy to come back from something like this and to work every day. I guess I’m in the parts right now when it’s more (physical). Physically getting it stronger, getting the muscle back. Literally when you have surgery on your knee, the muscles atrophy and just go (away). Your muscles just go (away). So physically is definitely the hardest part right now. I think the mental aspect was early and then it’ll be late. ‘Early’ meaning when it first happened, thinking you probably won’t be able to even run again; and ‘late’ when you are able to run and jump and mentally being able to connect to your knee, saying that you can do all these things and not being afraid to do it. I think that’s both sides of it.”

Cruz was asked if he has had to tell himself to slow down a bit on the rehab. “Yeah, I’m kinda there right now,” replied Cruz. “I’ve started to do some things and I’m starting to feel my knee getting better and responding better, but I understand there’s a long way to go and a process and I don’t wanna rush anything.”

Apr 082015
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Special players enable teams to win games and championships. The greatest single roster addition for the New York Giants in 2015 will not likely come from free agency or the NFL Draft, but hopefully the return of a healthy and dynamic Victor Cruz.

The Giants won their last NFL Championship in 2011. During team’s 9-7 regular season, the Giants finished dead last in rushing and 27th in total defense. It was quarterback Eli Manning (nearly 5,000 yards and six regular-season 4th-quarter come-from-behind victories) who was the catalyst for the team’s winning record. But the other two impact players on offense were wide outs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. In one of the great Cinderella stories in all of sports, the undrafted free agent Cruz caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards (18.7 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns in first full season. In addition, 2009 1st rounder Nicks caught 76 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Together, Cruz and Nicks were responsible for over 55 percent of Manning’s yardage total as New York finished 5th in the NFL in passing.

The Giants barely squeaked into the playoffs in 2011, but they went on an astounding four-game post-season winning streak where the team defeated the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons, 15-1 Green Bay Packers (#1 NFC seed), 14-3 San Francisco 49ers (#2 NFC seed), and 15-3 New England Patriots (#1 AFC seed). Fortunately for the Giants, the team’s defense and ground game finally came alive in the playoffs, Eli brought the team back twice more in the fourth quarter, and Nicks went on a monster 4-game stretch (28 catches, 444 yards, 4 touchdowns).

But it was Manning, Cruz, and Nicks who got them to the dance. They were the difference makers.

Now obviously there is more than one path to the playoffs and Super Bowl glory. The 2007 New York Giants finished 10-6 with an inconsistent Eli Manning and passing game and the League’s 4th-ranked rushing attack and 7th-ranked defense. It was those latter two units who got the Giants to the playoffs before Eli went on his first post-season tear.

However, it will be easier for the Giants to improve their passing game (7th in the NFL in 2014) to elite status than to elevate their defense (29th in the NFL in 2014) and rushing game (28th in yards per rushing attempt in 2014) from the bottom of the NFL to top 10 status in one season. For one, Manning is coming off one of his best seasons and should be far more comfortable in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast-style of offense. Second, Odell Beckham has already arguably become the most dangerous receiver in the NFL. If Cruz can return to his 2011-12 form (168 catches, 2,228 yards, 19 touchdowns), the Giants will have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the game. Manning-Beckham-Cruz could surpass the 2011 productivity of Manning-Cruz-Nicks.

The potential fly in the ointment is obviously Cruz’s right knee. Cruz tore the patella tendon in his right knee in October 2014. Cruz immediately underwent surgery that same month. At the time, a series of articles were written by sports reporters who consulted medical specialists who questioned whether Cruz would be ever be the same player again.

“While it heals after surgery, it’s a very difficult injury for a speed guy to come back from,” Dr. Craig Levitz, chairman of orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital and chief of sports medicine, told Newsday. “I don’t recall a speed player that has made it back anything close to their former self. He will be ready to play next season, but he may not be good enough to play after he heals.”

“How well he does depends on a number of factors,’’ Dr. James Gladstone, Co-Chief, Division of Sports Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The New York Post. “He could get back 100 percent, but it’s also possible if he doesn’t get his range of motion.”

After the surgery, Cruz’s trainer predicted the opposite.

“I expect him to attack the rehab just like he’s attacked everything else,” Sean Donellan told The New York Post in October. “He loves proving people wrong. He’s been told his entire life, ‘The doors are closed.’ He wasn’t a Notre Dame guy, a Michigan guy. He wasn’t a big-time D-1 recruit. He wasn’t a draft pick. He scrapped his way onto the field, and he’ll scrap his way back from this.

“I know a lot of people are saying he can’t or won’t be the same after the surgery, and they have pointed out other players who haven’t come back the same, but I have worked with some of those guys and the difference is Victor will outwork them.

“And he will be back. I have no question about that whatsoever.”

Publicly, comments from Giants’ officials have ranged from cautious to optimistic.

“When a guy has a big injury like Victor had, you can’t put all your eggs in his basket,” said Reese on February 21. “Our doctors said he looks good. I see him down in the training room working out with our trainers and doctors and he looks good. Until you get out there – his game is quickness. Until you get out there and move around, you never know how he is going to recover from that. We are hoping and praying that he comes back 100 percent and be the Victor Cruz that we know, but you can’t put 100 percent in that basket.”

“I think (Cruz) will be back to the player that he was and hopefully better,” said Coughin on March 25. “Victor looks really good, he’s starting to run, I was in the field house watching him rehab, he’s coming along well… I don’t know (when he will be able to fully practice). I shouldn’t say this, because medically I really do not have a definite answer, but by training camp, hopefully. He will work his way through.”

Predictably, Cruz says he will be back.

“The injury’s going well, the rehab’s going very, very well,” Cruz said on March 4. “I’m a little more than halfway there, we’re building the strength back in my leg. The rehab’s been hard, it’s been difficult, it’s been long, it’s been grueling, but I’ve been going through it, man, and it’s definitely paying off now. The strength is coming back slowly but surely.

“(The Giants’ medical staff does) a good job of when I’m feeling good, they still tell me things I need to hear to bring me back down to earth a little bit. So they do a good job of keeping me humble and keeping me mindful of the fact that I still have a little ways to go. These steps that I’ve taken so far have been great ones, and they always remind me to send me videos of myself eight weeks ago, ten weeks ago just to remind me how far I’ve come.

“Obviously the next couple of months are very, very important in terms of building the strength (in my knee) and continuing to mold my body back into running shape and things like that. And I just want to take these next couple of months to do that and really focus on that. Training camp is definitely the timetable. More importantly, even before training camp, I’ll be feeling almost 100 percent around May-ish, June-ish and I can really start rehabbing and strengthening it and start running routes and things like that, hopefully.”

#TheReturn

A video posted by Victor Cruz (@teamvic) on

If Cruz isn’t the same player, it will be a hard hit for the Giants. Without Cruz, Beckham is the only receiver on offense that consistently scares opposing defenses. Wide receiver Rueben Randle and tight end Larry Donnell have flashed, but it remains questionable how good they will become. In fact, a strong argument can be made that if one of the top receivers are available in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, the Giants should considering adding another potential impact player at a position that once looked settled with Cruz and Nicks. The disaster scenario for Manning and the Giants? What if Beckham gets hurt and Cruz isn’t the same player?

Some also point to Cruz’s disappointing season in 2013. Cruz not only missed the last two games of that season with a concussion and left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, he was held scoreless and only had one 100-yard receiving game after Week 4. He was also a bit up-and-down in the six games he played in 2014. Though Cruz is an incredibly hard worker, the naysayers will point to off-the-field distractions (both business and social) as well as level of comfort derived from a Super Bowl ring and a huge 5-year, $43-million contract.

Cruz isn’t big. He isn’t blazing fast. But when he’s on top of his game, his quickness and ability to read coverages, run good routes, and get open make him one of the best slot receivers in football. New York Giants fans only got to see Cruz and Beckham play together for a little more than a game and a half. They want more.

Cruz is clearly at a crossroads… and so might be state of the New York Giants passing offense. No other offseason move can equal the impact of the return of the 2011-12 version of Victor Cruz.

Apr 032015
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (November 4, 2012)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Victor Cruz Begins Running: New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz posted a photo on his Instagram account yesterday showing him running inside the team’s indoor practice facility at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

This is the first public evidence that Cruz is running again since tearing the patella tendon in his right knee on October 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles and subsequent surgery. Team officials such as General Manager Jerry Reese and Head Coach Tom Coughlin have said a number of times this offseason while they remain optimistic that Cruz will return to full strength, there are no guarantees.

“When a guy has a big injury like Victor had, you can’t put all your eggs in his basket,” said Reese on February 21. “Our doctors said he looks good. I see him down in the training room working out with our trainers and doctors and he looks good. Until you get out there – his game is quickness. Until you get out there and move around, you never know how he is going to recover from that. We are hoping and praying that he comes back 100 percent and be the Victor Cruz that we know, but you can’t put 100 percent in that basket.”

“I think (Cruz) will be back to the player that he was and hopefully better,” said Coughin on March 25. “Victor looks really good, he’s starting to run, I was in the field house watching him rehab, he’s coming along well… I don’t know (when he will be able to fully practice). I shouldn’t say this, because medically I really do not have a definite answer, but by training camp, hopefully. He will work his way through.”

Good morning world! Not the greatest quality but I think the screen shot speaks for itself. #TheReturn

A photo posted by Victor Cruz (@teamvic) on

“Big Four” Together at Duke: New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz also posted a photo on his Instagram account showing fellow wide receivers Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle as well as quarterback Eli Manning hanging out with him at Duke University. The extent of their athletic interaction is not known.

Mar 312015
 
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Kerry Wynn, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Kerry Wynn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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