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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Eli: Not worried about Victor Cruz

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning didn't sound too worried about not seeing Victor Cruz again at the New York Giants' practice facility.

And the quarterback doesn't have a problem with Cruz not attending the team's voluntary offseason workout program as the restricted free agent continues to seek a long-term extension with the Giants.

"I have a feeling I will see Victor here when the contract is done," Manning said of a potential long-term extension. "That is my gut feeling. I could be wrong. If he is back earlier, then that will be a bonus."

"I'm not going to prod [Cruz to show up]," added Manning, who threw passes to Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Louis Murphy last week at Duke University in an informal offseason workout gathering. "He has got to do what's in the best interest of him, and that's usually staying away and putting pressure to try to get the deal done."

General manager Jerry Reese said he has talked to Cruz's camp but that there's "nothing to report." The two sides have stood apart on a multiyear contract extension, and the Giants tendered the restricted free agent with a first-round tender.

Teams have until Friday to attempt to sign restricted free agents. Any team that signs Cruz to a lucrative contract also has to be prepared to part with its first-round pick because the Giants have the right to match or receive a first-rounder as compensation. No team, though, is expected to make an offer by the Friday deadline.

In the meantime, Cruz has opted not to show up for the voluntary workout programs, which are only in the strength and conditioning and rehab phase right now.

Co-owner John Mara has said that the Giants have made an offer that would make Cruz "a very wealthy young man." In his two seasons as a starter, the Pro Bowl receiver has a total of 168 receptions for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns.

When asked about Cruz's absence this week, Reese said he understood the circumstance.

"He is a free agent and doesn't have a contract, so he is not here," the general manager said. "That is pretty cut and dry."

Restricted free agent running back Andre Brown did opt to participate this week, however. When that was mentioned, Reese replied, "Well, that is his choice. Guys have choices to do that. Victor chose not to."

Reese said he will not operate under the assumption that Cruz will be in uniform for the season opener simply because he doesn't want to assume anything in general.

"I don't assume anything," Reese said. "We will see. I can tell you this, when we get ready to play, when the season starts, we will have good players out there. I am not sure if Victor will be there or not, but I don't assume anything."

Reese also said Cruz's contract situation will not impact how he will operate during next week's draft.

"It doesn't affect our draft," said Reese, who has the 19th overall pick in the draft. "We are just going to pick the best player up there. If Victor is not here, we have other receivers. It is all about the team for us. One player doesn't make your team."

"The Victor Cruz thing, it will play out," Reese added. "Where it goes, it will go there. There's not a lot for me to talk about right now about Victor Cruz."

Manning is pretty confident the team's brass knows how valuable Cruz is. Cruz has been an invaluable security blanket over the middle for Manning.

"I think they know Victor's importance," Manning said. "And his play the last few years has shown that, the touchdowns, the catches, the first downs, his playmaking ability.

"I think they want him back," Manning continued. "It is a matter of kind of finding that line of the worth and dealing with the salary cap and all those issues and get him back at a good price. Hopefully all that gets worked out sooner than later."