Victor Cruz eager to restart his big-play career with Bears

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Victor Cruz (80) and Eli Manning (10) celebrate a touchdown against the Bears last season. Cruz had one catch for 48 yards in the Giants’ 22-16 victory at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

BOURBONNAIS — Old habits die hard for receiver Victor Cruz. Even with the Bears, he’s still on Coughlin time: If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late.

‘‘I’m five minutes early for every meeting, looking around like, ‘Nobody’s here?’ ’’ said Cruz, who played for Tom Coughlin with the

Giants from 2010 to 2015.

Of all the new receivers the Bears have brought in this season after Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles, Cruz has the best résumé. An undrafted free agent from Massachusetts, he was the leading receiver on a Super Bowl team with the Giants (82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011) and made the Pro Bowl the next season (86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012).

In 2011-13, Cruz had nine receptions of 68 yards or longer, including catches of 99, 80, 77, 74 and 74 yards. That’s more than the Bears had as a team (eight) in the entire eight-year Jay Cutler era.

But that was two injuries ago, a torn patellar tendon in 2014 and a calf injury in 2015. He’s not the same player he was in his heyday with the Giants, but he doesn’t have to be to help the Bears.

Cruz was the odd man out with the Giants last season. He lost his slot-receiver position to Sterling Shepard, was miscast on the outside and put up modest numbers in the shadow of Odell Beckham (39 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown). His longest reception of 48 yards came against the Bears at the Meadowlands.

With the Bears, he’ll be back in the slot — and possibly in the right place at the right time. Even if he’s not the explosive player he was in 2011-13, there’s room for him to succeed.

‘‘I think I fit in very well, especially from a slot perspective,’’ Cruz said. ‘‘It definitely suits my abilities. If I just continue to prove that I can make those plays and run those routes the right way and get myself open, I’ll be playing on Sundays.’’

After the Giants cut him in February, Cruz signed a one-year contract with the  Bears in late May.

‘‘He’s got skins on the wall,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘The guy has been in good spots. He brings a lot of that chip-on-his-shoulder, big-spot experience, how-to-get-to-those-spots experience. He’s going to be a good addition.’’

With a one year deal, Cruz is motivated to re-establish himself in the NFL. He knows he’s auditioning for the rest of the league, as well as for the Bears. He comes to camp with base-level goals.

‘‘Just catch everything in front of me and get through the preseason unscathed and hopefully put some good things on film,’’ he said.

Much of Cruz’s success depends on his connection with quarterback Mike Glennon, who is learning a new system himself. Cruz said he likes the way Glennon has taken command of the offense and connected with his receivers.

‘‘Just his energy in the huddle, commanding the huddle, commanding the offense in general,’’ Cruz said. ‘‘Just the other day, we made a couple of mistakes as an offense, and he made us run some half-gassers, just to make us understand how serious we want to take this game as an offense and how different we want to be from years prior and how we want to be. It’s going to take a full team effort, starting with him.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.



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