The star wide receiver who is at the New York Giants' voluntary workouts this week is Hakeem Nicks, whose injury problems last year were a big part of the struggles of the Giants' offense. And while the hot topic over at the Meadowlands is the status of restricted free-agent wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is not present, Nicks' health status is probably more important to the fortunes of the 2013 Giants than is Cruz's contract status. Per Kieran Darcy:
"My body's feeling good," Nicks said. "My goal is to be full-go by the season, by training camp. So this time that I have now is to get myself back in football shape, football condition. It’s been a while. So that’s all I’m doing right now."
When asked how confident he feels that he will be ready for training camp, Nicks said, "My confidence is extremely high."
Nicks played in 13 of 16 games last year, but he had just 53 catches, and posted career lows in receiving yardage (692) and touchdowns (3). The Giants' offensive production suffered as a result, and the team missed the playoffs, a year after winning the Super Bowl.
"Obviously having Hakeem hurt for most of the year was a factor," quarterback Eli Manning said Thursday. "In the middle of the year and the end of the year, he wasn’t himself, and you can see that on the film clearly. So it’d be great to have him back full-speed, healthy, making the plays he normally makes."
It would be great for the Giants for a number of reasons. Obviously, on the field a healthy Nicks would help them score more points and win more games. But off the field, and with regard to the Cruz situation, a healthy Nicks would only help the Giants' leverage. If Nicks struggles again this year and Cruz posts huge numbers again as the team's most productive wide receiver, that strengthens Cruz's case for demanding No. 1 wide receiver contract money. If Nicks excels as the Giants' clear No. 1, that strengthens the team's case for viewing Cruz as a top slot receiver but not a true No. 1 in terms of contract.
Nicks' contract situation is different from Cruz's. Nicks is signed through 2013. Cruz is a restricted free-agent who's been tendered a one-year offer but has no reason to act on it at least until Friday, which is the final day on which another team could sign him to an offer sheet. Nicks has no reason not to be at the Giants' training facility this week. Cruz has no reason to be there. But while they're two different situations, Nicks' and Cruz's status remain tied together in significant ways. The Giants want Nicks healthy so they can be a better team in 2013. But a side benefit of that would be a big help in their continued standoff with Cruz.