Cruz looks to help Chicago Bears receiving corps

BOURBONNAIS - No one expects 30-year-old wide receiver Victor Cruz to duplicate his numbers from 2011, when he had 82 receptions for 1,536 yards, an 18.7-yard average and 9 touchdowns for the New York Giants.

But that doesn't mean he can't help a Chicago Bears wide receiver crew that has major question marks.

"He's got skins on the wall," Bears coach John Fox said. "The guy has been there, been in good spots. The guy came into the league not in really high regard. He earned his way.

"(As) we try to stress here, everybody starts off as a nobody, but he's a great example of that. He brings a lot of that chip on his shoulder, experience, big-spot experience. He's going to be a good addition."

The 6-foot, 204-pound Cruz was undrafted in 2010 out of Massachusetts and did nothing as a rookie that would portend a meteoric rise.

Cruz came out of nowhere the next season and became a fan favorite with his salsa-dancing touchdown celebrations and flair for the big play. He added 10 TDs in 2012 on 86 catches for 1,092 yards and then 998 receiving yards in 2013.

But a torn patellar tendon in his right knee during Game 6 of the 2014 season altered the arc of his career. He missed the entire 2015 season and had just 39 catches last season, although they produced 586 yards and a very respectable 15.0-yard average per catch.

After he was waived by the Giants on Feb. 13, Cruz signed a one-year, prove-you-can-still-do-it contract with the Bears for $2 million on May 18. His goals this year are simple.

"Just to catch everything in front of me and get through the preseason unscathed and hopefully put some good things on film and get ready to roll," Cruz said.

"I think I fit in very well, especially from a slot perspective. It definitely suits my abilities, and 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 out there on the field playing on Sundays."

The competition in the slot should be interesting to watch, although another veteran slot receiver who was signed in the off-season, former Pittsburgh Steeler Markus Wheaton, will be set back by Sunday's appendectomy.

Former Tennessee Titans slot receiver and first-round pick Kendall Wright, another newcomer via free agency, also has put up huge numbers earlier in his NFL career and is only 27.

He too, is on a one-year, make-good deal.

Last year's seventh-round pick, Daniel Braverman, has a year in the system and is the kind of hard worker coaches pound the table for.

"Some of these guys on one-year, prove-it deals can be a good thing," said Bears general manager Ryan Pace. "It's a competitive environment.

"I look at the slot position, and that's going to be highly competitive as we go into this camp. That's a great thing. It'll kind of battle out, and we're happy with the group."

The Bears will be happy with Cruz if he can approach the accomplishments of his glory days.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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