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Giants' Cruz expects to play in opener

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz has shed the protective boot he's been sporting, and expects to play in the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys Sept. 8.

''Feeling good,'' Cruz said Tuesday, a day after the boot came off his injured left foot. ''It's been better, feels a lot better, a lot of the swelling has gone down. Obviously, looking forward to better days coming.''

Cruz was sidelined more than a week after hurting his heel in a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts Aug. 18. He jumped to catch a pass from Eli Manning on the opening series and a defender landed on his foot. Two days later, he used crutches to walk to the podium with his foot in a boot.

Cruz missed the third preseason game, vs. the Jets, and will also skip Thursday's exhibition finale at New England. He hopes to practice Monday and play the following weekend.

''Absolutely. I knew initially that it was just a small bump in the road and that I just needed some time off to get some down time off the boot and off the foot and get things going the right way,'' Cruz said. ''Dallas was definitely a target date for me and I knew that I had to be ready. I still have some time to recuperate. It feels even better.''

The only pain he has is getting out of bed.

''There's swelling in the morning when I first put my foot down, that's about it,'' the Paterson, N.J., native said. ''Other than that, once I get it going and get it warmed up, it seems to loosen up a little bit and feel better. We still want to take it easy and take it one day at a time.''

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Cruz is still getting treatment on the foot, including an exercise where he has to pick up marbles with his feet.

Cruz has led the Giants in receiving the past two seasons, catching a combined 168 passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. He scored one of the two touchdowns the offense has generated this preseason.

The offense will improve, Cruz insists.

''With the amount of reps that we get, it's hard to develop a rhythm,'' he said. ''We just need to get it going a little bit and I think our balance isn't there yet; our balance of running the ball and passing it. Slowly but surely, we'll get that back. Days of practice and getting everybody back out there, I think that will help us.

''But I think we just need to build some fluidity within the offense.''

Notes: Coach Tom Coughlin said his first team will play up to 15 plays against the Patriots. ... James Brewer will start at left guard with Kevin Boothe moving to center in the new alignment on the offensive line. ... DE Jason Pierre-Paul took some snaps on Tuesday, one day after coming off the physically unable to perform list. ... Rookie DE Damontre Moore returned to practice for the first time since hurting a shoulder in the preseason opener.

Tagged: Giants, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz

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