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Ready to dance: Victor Cruz feels ‘natural’ in mentor role for Bears

Receiver Victor Cruz. (AP)

Victor Cruz isn’t holding salsa dance classes at Halas Hall just yet. But if he’s asked by other receivers about his moves for touchdown celebrations, he surely will walk them through the steps.

After all, it’s partly why the Bears signed him. Cruz is supposed to be there for his younger teammates — and that means for everything.

“I understood that coming in,” said Cruz, who signed Tuesday. “In the NFL, you kind of just fall into this leadership category. After a certain number of years, it’s like, ‘OK, you’re the veteran. Well, what? I just got here.’

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

But that doesn’t mean Cruz, who turns 31 on Nov. 11, plans to be more of a coach than a player. He’s excited about what he still can do on the field after appearing in 15 games last season for the Giants and making 39 catches for 586 yards and a touchdown.

“I felt 100 percent,” Cruz said. “I was out there playing. After that Dallas game, scoring a touchdown to basically win the game, I was on a high. You couldn’t tell me anything after that one.

“It was a great year. It was a great moment for me just to have that opportunity to come back and play after two years of mostly being down. Most guys don’t even get that.”

Cruz missed all of the 2015 season because of torn fascia in his left calf. In 2014, he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in Week 6 and missed the rest of the season.

The Giants released Cruz in February, freeing up $7.5 million in salary-cap space. The move came a year after Cruz took a pay cut to stay with the team.

But Cruz said he feels “very close” to becoming the Pro Bowl player he was before injuries changed his career. It starts with being healthy, but it includes building a rapport with quarterback Mike Glennon and learning coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense. He still feels most comfortable in the slot.

“It’s just about getting my bearings,” said Cruz, who had 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns during the 2011 and 2012 seasons after going undrafted out of Massachusetts in 2010. “I have that potential to be that guy you saw a few years ago.”

If that’s the case, expect some salsa dancing this season, though Cruz’s new teammates will need help with it.

“I was watching their hips; it’s not the best looking hips out here,” Cruz said with a smile. “We have to give them a little more time to open up the hips, and we’ll see how the salsa works.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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