Giants' Cruz aiming for OTAs; Nicks leaving?

December 27 - The Sports Xchange

For the second consecutive year, New York Giants wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are approaching important offseasons - although the reasons have flip-flopped for quarterback Eli Manning's two most trusted downfield targets.

Cruz, who suffered a concussion and injured his knee on the same play against the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago, met with the media for the first time Friday since undergoing surgery on that knee. He will sit out Sunday's season finale, but expects to be ready to go when the offseason program cranks up in May.

"The expected rehab time should be about a month and a half to two months. We'll see how it goes. I want to take it extremely slow and make sure I come back at 100 percent, not out there wary and kind of timid. I want to be confident when I'm back out there so I can continue to be the same player I've been for these past couple of years."

Cruz finishes his 2013 season just two receiving yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau.

"I wish I could go back and get them, but it's okay. Things happen like that," he said. "When I was on the flight going to get my surgery, a fan came up to me and said, don't worry about those two yards, you still got a thousand in my book. That sealed the deal for me. I knew I didn't need them. Obviously as a competitor you want to go out there and get those two, but I just couldn't this year, unfortunately, but it's cool.

It's cool, in part, because Cruz's future with the Giants was solidified with the five-year, $43 million deal he agreed to last July 18 after skipping the offseason program while negotiating with the team.

Nicks also missed a large part of last offseason's workouts while coming off a 2012 season in which he dealt with foot and knee issues. He also wanted a new contract that didn't come to fruition, and now enters Sunday's game knowing it is his last before becoming a free agent.

He made a rare appearance with the media this season on Friday.

"(The Giants) know that I want to stay. It's just a matter of how things are going to work out," Nicks said. "We'll know that soon."

Nicks has spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Giants, but has suffered a drop in production with 54 catches for 846 yards and no touchdowns this season. Cruz is a fourth-year veteran - also all with the Giants - and knows he could become a bigger focal point from opposing defenses if Nicks is wearing a different uniform next season.

"If something happens and Hakeem isn't here, I'm ready to handle that load," Cruz said. "I'm ready to be the guy that kind of steps up and makes those big plays and makes those big third down catches and touchdowns. I've been accustomed to doing it basically all my life.

"Mentally, I just want to continue to be focused and continue to build my body up to take that and to be ready for those type of circumstances that I'm going to be placed in this next year if Hakeem isn't around."

Cruz admitted he selfishly hopes Nicks returns in 2014 and the duo can help the Giants rebound from consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs. Nicks has also contemplated the career change that could be coming, and the fact he may never line up alongside Cruz again.

But that's for next week. Right now, Nicks' focus remains on the Giants.

"I thought about it, but at the end of the day it's business and I understand the business side of things," Hicks said. "I can't really say too much right now, we still have a game left. I want to go out there and compete, I want to have fun and I want to fly around."

By the time the offseason program comes around, Cruz expects the knee to be healthy. Whether or not Nicks is still in the fold will be known by then, and Cruz wants the receivers who are on the roster to spend more time getting in sync with Manning over this offseason.

"I think this year I'll make it a point to get with Eli a little bit more and get with our quarterbacks a little bit more and get the receiving corps together as much as we can, to kind of build that more," Cruz said. "I think that's one thing we lacked, is kind of that continuity from a receiver standpoint with our quarterback and I want to build that earlier this year, whether we've got to set some time a part and get the receivers down with Eli whenever he's ready and kind of just schedule it right so we can just build, not only on the field, but off the field.

"We want to get to know each other a little bit more. I feel like there was a little bit of a disconnect there that we want to get back into this football team."

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