EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Victor Cruz has no doubt that he will play in the New York Giants' regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
Six months after surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, Cruz sees himself in the slot receiver spot looking in at Eli Manning and knowing the quarterback has a double threat with Odell Beckham parked on the outside.
For Cruz, it's exciting just thinking about it. That's down the road though, Sept. 13 in Dallas.
The goal now is to remain patient.
"I didn't think I knew exactly how much patience I really had," Cruz said Thursday shortly after general manager Jerry Reese held his annual pre-draft news conference. "I knew or I told myself that I'm patient but in this day and age you want information quickly."
The 28-year-old Cruz is at the point in his rehabilitation where he has been running in straight lines for the past month. He hopes to progress to cutting on the field soon, but not too soon.
His goal is to be ready for the season, not blow out his knee again.
Cruz was limited to four games last season after the major non-contact injury against the Eagles in October. It marked the second straight year that his season was cut short by a knee injury. He was limited to 14 games in 2013 because of surgery on his left knee.
"I think I know I am at a place in the surgery and the rehabilitation process where I want to push it and go faster and do different things," Cruz said. "I have to be patient. It takes time and discipline to continue to rehabilitate yourself."
Cruz believes he has already crossed the mental threshold in his comeback. It happened a couple of months after his surgery in October when he was on crutches and moving around well.
"You're thinking: 'OK, does this feel like you can do some of the things you once did?'" he said. "There isn't anything negative. No ailments have come on the latter part of it. I do feel like I can continue to be that same guy I was before and it is going to heal to 100 percent."
Before his injuries, Cruz was one of the NFL's top playmaking receivers. He had a career year in 2011 with 82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, and he followed that with 86 catches for 1,092 yards in 2012. He was two yards shy of another 1,000 season in 2013 when he was hurt.
While the stats last year were nothing worth noting, there is excitement about the prospect of Cruz playing with Beckham, who had 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in a record-setting rookie season.
"If I get another question somewhere out on the streets about how excited everybody is about myself and Odell, I might just jump off a building," Cruz said. "I am definitely excited about it."
Cruz said that he and Beckham have gotten closer in the offseason, and he hopes the two can take the pressure off each other. He is not chomping to be the Giants' go-to guy again.
"I just want to be the guy who catches everything that Eli throws my way and score as many touchdowns as possible. That's all," Cruz said.
Cruz also knows the Giants might protect themselves in next week's draft and take a receiver in case he has a setback.
"I am focused on myself and focused on what I can do," he said. "I am focused on getting myself to 100 percent and the rest will take care of itself."