Cuz wants to improve after record-setting season

Coming off a record-setting season for the Super Bowl champion

New York Giants, Victor Cruz isn’t on `Cruz’ control.

Far from it.

The only thing that one of New York’s most popular players has

tempered is his celebratory salsa-dancing. It’s a bit much for

training camp.

What hasn’t changed is Cruz’s approach to football. He’s all in,

and that has never been more evident than at the first few days at

the University at Albany.

”I feel once you get to a point where you are satisfied you

feel like the work is over,” Cruz said Sunday at lunch. ”I want

to work and continue to get better in areas that I need to get

better at. I will be satisfied once my career is over and I am done

winning as many games as I possibly can and playing as many games

as I can possibly play. I will be satisfied when all is said and

done.”

Cruz has let his play on the field in the first couple of days

of training camp at the University at Albany speak for itself.

In Thursday’s first practice, Cruz ran a route across the middle

and had his feet slip out from under him, sending him sliding to

the grass. Still, he managed to raise his chest, reach back and

catch Eli Manning’s pass.

The following day, Cruz made a one-handed catch of a pass that

Manning threw behind him and then showed his speed, running past a

defensive back to catch a long pass.

They were outstanding plays that Cruz made with extra effort,

even though no one would have blamed him if he didn’t make the

play.

After all, it’s early in camp and Cruz is coming off a

phenomenal second season in which he caught 82 passes for a team

record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. He doesn’t need to impress

the coaching staff to make the team, unlike two years ago when he

came to camp as an undrafted free agent.

”It just goes back to my way of thinking and my way of playing

to just catch everything,” Cruz said. ”I always wanted to be able

to catch the football no matter what happens throughout the route.

I want to be able to get my hands on it and make the play. On that

play (Thursday), I was able to get my balance back to put my hands

on the ball and make the play. That’s what I want to continue to

do, just keep playing football and fighting to the very end and

keep making plays.”

Cruz did that last season in helping the Giants win their second

title in five seasons, and it came as a total surprise.

Cruz made the team in 2010 after an excellent camp and a

phenomenal preseason game against the Jets in which the Paterson,

N.J., native who grew up 20 minutes from MetLife Stadium caught

three touchdowns. A hamstring injury ended his season after three

games.

Year 2 was magic with the jump-off point being a road game

against Philadelphia in which Cruz caught three passes for 110

yards and two touchdowns after getting playing time because Mario

Manningham and Domenik Hixon were hurt.

After that, it was one big play after another.

Among his other highlights were a 68-yard TD play after making a

one-handed catch against Seattle, a 99-yard catch and run in a

pivotal win over the Jets in the next to last week of the season

and a 74-yard touchdown catch and run to ignite a Giants win over

Dallas on the final weekend that earned New York the NFC East title

and a playoff berth.

He would add 21 receptions in the postseason, including New

York’s first touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

A hectic offseason followed in which he would co-author a book

and make dozens of appearances.

”I made sure that I put in workout times for myself throughout

the media run,” Cruz said. ”I just made sure I got my workouts in

three to four times a week and was able to get it done. It wasn’t

hard. I did my football related stuff and then my business stuff

afterward.”

Coming to camp, Cruz has to be considered the leader of the

receiving corps, especially with Hakeem Nicks sidelined because of

a foot injury. There is also no doubt opponents will be

game-planning for him this season more than ever.

”I understand that a lot of the focal point has shifted toward

me coming off last year and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t

feel any pressure,” the 25-year-old said. ”I just want to go out

there and play my game and the way I know I can play, then

everything else will take care of itself.

Cruz is clearly a camp favorite with the fans. Anytime he

catches the ball, there is a cheer of ”Cruzzzzz!”

”It’s crazy,” he said. ”It’s fun. It’s all part of the game,

I am just blessed to be in this position in football and playing in

front of thousands of people who enjoy what I do. They took a

liking to me personally. I am having fun.”

Those fans also seemingly want him to salsa after every catch.

He has resisted, knowing his teammates would give him grief in

camp.

”I didn’t score a touchdown so I am not going to do a salsa

when we are going through a certain part of our practice,” he

said.

Manning appreciates Cruz’s no-nonsense approach to practice.

”I think those are the guys that have success,’ Manning said.

”They treat practice like a game, so when you get into that game,

with game experience, you’re prepared for it.”

Tom Coughlin said Cruz only plays at one speed.

”He has a lot of pride,” Coughlin said. ”He is going to

practice hard and try to make himself better. He is certainly going

build the confidence of his quarterback, for sure.”