Victor Cruz looking to bounce back, bring leadership to Chicago Bears

May 31

Victor Cruz looking to bounce back, bring leadership to Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — With the start of organized team activities, the Chicago Bears began the laborious task of syncing up quarterbacks and wide receivers in the passing game.

After they waived their only returning quarterback, Connor Shaw, and with a handful of new receivers vying for roster spots, establishing continuity appears to be a challenge they will address from now to the start of the regular season.

Confusion seemed obvious at times on Day 2 of Week 2 in OTAs, when three passes were intercepted by Bears defensive backs. This was a secondary practically without interceptions the last two regular seasons.

The signing of former Giants receiver Victor Cruz brought the Bears another potential target, and he fits the mold of many of the team’s free agent additions at this position.

Cruz is trying to bounce back.

After a ruptured patellar tendon in 2014 essentially cost him playing time for two years, Cruz showed he might still have something last year with 39 catches.

“I think last year I proved that I can play some outside with the Giants and things like that, but I think my most comfortable, most natural position is the slot and then we can expand it from there,” Cruz said.

The Bears earlier signed Kendall Wright in free agency as a potential slot target, and Cameron Meredith last year played both slot and outside.

If Cruz returns to the form he had when he was a key to the Giants’ Super Bowl win in 2011, he’ll no doubt be an asset to this pieced-together receiver group.

Cruz deemed himself 100 percent healthy, and said this was true last year on opening day when his touchdown catch beat Dallas 20-19.

“I felt 100 percent, I was out there playing, then after that Dallas game scoring a touchdown to basically win the game I was on a high,” Cruz said. “You couldn’t tell me anything after that one, it was a great year it was a great moment for me to just to have that opportunity to come back and play after two years of mostly being down.”

Cruz called the mental part of the game his biggest challenge both in coming back from the injury and now in learning a new offense. However, he’s finding the Bears attack to be somewhat similar to the one used by the Giants.

“It’s just terminology is different, so you’ve got to understand that,” he said. “The splits are different, just some of the alignments, same type of routes just run differently from different alignments.”

Quarterback Mike Glennon has taken it upon himself as the new leader to get to know each offensive player and called Cruz ahead of time to set up dinner to talk before practices.

Glennon impresses Cruz.

“I think he has a command of the offense, he understands the offense, even in a short period of time,” Cruz said. “And you can see he’s getting more and more comfortable as these practices, and as the practice goes on. That’s all you can ask for.”

Glennon’s abilities might be the most obvious aspect of the passing attack considering the targets he is relying on this season.

With Alshon Jeffery gone, Cruz joins a receiver group that is counting on Kevin White to play a full season for the first time, and for one of several others to also step forth.

For Cruz, playing with young receivers means he’ll be in a leadership role even in his first days with the team.

“But I think I fold into that mold very well,” Cruz said. “I think it’s natural for me and I’m excited to help these young guys get better, and watch them grow.”

Cruz said he won’t be teaching any of them the Salsa touchdown dance he patented in New York.

“Not yet, some of them, I was watching their hips, it’s not the best looking hips out here,” he said. “We have to give them a little more time to open up the hips and we’ll see how the Salsa works.”

One of those Cruz will no doubt offer a veteran’s advice to is White.

On Tuesday, White worked out with the starting offense after missing 12 games because of a leg fracture during the 2016 season and missing all of 2015 with a different leg fracture.

White missed last week’s Tuesday practice in front of the media, although he practiced the previous day. He said he knows it’s time to prove himself.

“It’s got to happen now, I’ve got to turn it up,” said White, the seventh pick in the 2015 draft. “You know even in Year 1, Year 2, I always want to turn it up and show what I can do.

“So to me, Year 3, it’s time.”

White acknowledged the receiver corps as a group has to do what he must do.

Players such as Wright and Markus Wheaton and Meredith have had a good season or two, but few have done it consistently and none have done it consistently with the Bears.

“We’ve got a lot to prove, but who don’t?” White said. “So we just take it like that and whoever wants to say things about us, you know say we’re unproductive or inconsistent or whatever you want to say, you (media) guys write it up and we’ll try and do our best at it.”

White almost seems to have a chip on his shoulder about the media and talk he might be a draft bust.

“If you say I won’t be able to score a touchdown or get 100 yards in a game, that’s not going to affect how I play,” he told reporters. “I just know I’ve got to turn it up and do what I’ve got to do.”

White aside, Cruz said he was impressed by some receivers at practice.

“The three receivers that stuck out to me, it’s definitely Cam Meredith, I think he’s very fluid and he’s a big target and he can go up and get the ball and runs really good routes,” Cruz said.

“And I think Markus Wheaton, he’s a guy that you can see his speed, I know he’s a little bit limited, he had a yellow jersey on today, but you can see what he kind of brings to the table.

“And I think JB (Josh Bellamy), he’s a guy that he talks a lot, man. I got here I’m (thinking) like, he’s one of those talkers. I like that, though.”

QB Connor Shaw waived: Shaw was waived to make room for WR Victo Cruz on the 90-man roster.

Shaw joined the Bears in July last year on waivers after being cut by the Browns. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 127 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions in preseason but suffered a season-ending broken leg in the third preseason game.

The move left the Bears with Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky and Mark Sanchez on the roster at quarterback.

Kyle Long works out: G Kyle Long worked on the side with rehabbing players Tuesday as he tries to come back from a severe ankle injury and surgery.

The team may be considering moving Long to the left side this year after he played right guard last year. Josh Sitton would move to right guard from left.

It’s possible the injury has something to do with Long’s weight loss. He lost weight to take pressure off his ankle following surgery. … Josh Sitton, who had ankle issues last year, was on the side at practice with players who are rehabbing from surgeries. … C Hroniss Grasu (knee) continued to work on the side rehabbing after surgery. …T William Poehls worked with the first-team offensive line at right guard with Long rehabbing and backup Eric Kush unavailable. The guard shortage also meant first-team time for reserve guard Cyril Richardson. At the least, it bulked up the Bears line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *