JPP, Victor Cruz share a Giant bond for surging Big Blue

Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz, who were Super Bowl XLVI champions and teammates in their second NFL seasons of 2011, suddenly feel like the old guys on the Giants, where rookies like receiver Sterling Shepard don’t even get their pop culture references.

“Today I had high white socks on out there, and I was like, ‘I’m doing my Keith Van Horn impression,” Cruz said Thursday, referring to the former New Jersey Nets forward. “And I was like, ‘Shep, do you know who Keith Van Horn is? He’s like, ‘No clue.’ I’m just like, ‘Man, get away from me.’”

Pierre-Paul’s moment came last Sunday night on the phone with Monday’s Ring of Honor inductee Justin Tuck, his former teammate and fellow Super Bowl champion.

“Just seeing Tuck out there brings me chills,” Pierre-Paul, 27, said Thursday. “Because I used to play with that guy and he’s retired. I remember year seven (of Tuck’s career) he used to be like, ‘Man, my ankle(‘s) hurting.’ And now in year seven, I’m saying the same thing.”

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It makes Pierre-Paul and Cruz appreciate this season more than ever, though, and have even more to prove in returns from severe setbacks and mental trials, now playing for a 6-3 Giants team on the rise.

Jason Pierre-Paul is making the most of his second chance for a Giants team heading places.

Jason Pierre-Paul is making the most of his second chance for a Giants team heading places.

(Frank Franklin II/AP)

“I used to be that young cat, man. Who knows how much time I’ve got left?” said Pierre-Paul, who went down hard to the turf in Monday’s fourth quarter against Cincinnati but bounced back up. “No injuries are gonna hold me back … For the 2016 season to ‘17, I’m gonna be on the field no matter what. You might hear, ‘Oh, JPP is not practicing,’ but best believe I’ll be out there on Sundays.”

Pierre-Paul and Cruz have won a championship already, so they aren’t Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who painfully is being robbed of his best chance to lead the Boys to a championship in classily stepping aside for rookie Dak Prescott.

Still, Pierre-Paul’s reflective nature on Thursday especially was a reminder of how much it took him to get back here after blowing up his right hand in that infamous July 4, 2015 fireworks accident, costing him half of last season, and how proud he is to be playing and factoring in a major way.

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“Just knowing a team got to game plan against me, it’s just a wonderful feeling,” Pierre-Paul said. “Because if they don’t, bad things are gonna happen. Bad things are gonna happen regardless, but it just makes me feel good, you know? I always had confidence of just playing football no matter what. Even with my hand injury, I still had that mentality, ya know, they could have (taken) the whole thing, I’d (have) been out there with a nub just doing it.”

Victor Cruz, despite a recent ankle injury, is enjoying a bounce-back season with the Giants.

Victor Cruz, despite a recent ankle injury, is enjoying a bounce-back season with the Giants.

(Matt Dunham/AP)

The same goes for Cruz, 30, who “absolutely … plan(s) on being out there” Sunday against the Chicago Bears (2-7) after practicing in a limited but effective role on Thursday.

Cruz knows the pain of missing most of the 2014 season with a torn right patellar tendon and all of the 2015 season for surgery on his left calf. And you could feel his anguish of having to sit out Monday night’s win with a sprained right ankle, given how precious he knows his remaining time is.

“It was (difficult), it was,” Cruz said. “You wanted to play, Monday night, go out with your team and help them win, but it was coach’s decision, and it probably worked out better in the long run. (But) I assume (he was just being extra cautious) and he had every right to do so, and I respect the decision.”

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Cruz’s eyes widened, though, when asked if he would have played on the ankle in a playoff game.

AN OCT. 12, 2014 FILE PHOTO

There was a time when it was unclear if Victor Cruz would ever contribute to the Giants.

(Matt Rourke/AP)

“I would have begged and pleaded a little more than what I did,” he said.

Winning a third career Super Bowl for Eli Manning, 35, of course, the oldest player on this Giants roster, is plenty of motivation and inspiration in and of itself. But Manning has made 192 consecutive starts; Pierre-Paul’s and

Cruz’s careers were supposed to be over.

Not yet.

“We do feel like this team,” Cruz said, “is a special team.”

Tags:
nfl
new york giants
victor cruz
jason pierre-paul
sports injuries

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