The Bears receiving corps is filled with plenty of “maybes.”
Maybe Kendall Wright can find that form he had during his productive time with Dowell Loggains in Tennessee. Maybe Kevin White can stay healthy and be the guy the Bears thought was worth the 7th pick in 2015. Maybe Victor Cruz can overcome a pair of significant injuries and be some version of the salsa-dancing star he was with the New York Giants.
As Cruz sees it, he’s not far off from answering his own “maybe” question with a yes.
“I think I’m close,” Cruz said. “I think it’s just about getting my bearings. The more routes I run, the more I build a rapport with Mike (Glennon) and get myself out there learning the plays and learning everything that needs to be learned, I think I have that potential to be that guy you saw a few years ago.”
That guy averaged 132 targets, 80 receptions, 1,209 yards and eight touchdowns per season from 2011-2013. His 10 catches and 142 yards in the 2011 NFC Championship helped push the Giants to Super Bowl Bowl XLVI, where he caught a touchdown in New York’s 21-17 win over the New England Patriots.
But Cruz tore the patellar tendon in his left knee six games into the 2014 season, then suffered a calf injury before the 2015 season that kept him sidelined that entire year (he said the calf injury was due to overcompensation for the patellar tear). He missed 26 consecutive regular season games, and when he returned to the Giants last year, Cruz caught 39 passes (on 72 targets) for 586 yards with one touchdown.
“It was more mental for me,” Cruz said. “Just mentally understanding that your leg is fine, you're going to be fine, you just have to go out there and play football, and the rest will take care of itself. So physically I understood my body would get back to 100 percent, but the mental part was probably the hardest.”
The Bears attracted Cruz largely because of opportunity, with only Cameron Meredith (66 receptions, 888 yards) having significant success in 2016 among this current group of receivers. There’s also an opportunity for Cruz, who’s been in the league for seven years, to help the growth of Meredith and White.
Whatever teaching Cruz does, though, it may not involve his signature touchdown salsa dance.
“I was watching their hips, it's not the best looking hips out here,” Cruz smiled. “We have to give them a little more time to open up the hips and we'll see how the salsa works.”