New York Giants All Pro receiver Victor Cruz was the biggest Latino name in the NFL and on his way to a superstar career as perhaps the No. 1 Hispanic sports hero until the devastating injury Sunday night that possibly threatens his career.
Can he ever be the Victor Cruz with blazing speed that made him one of the leagues most dangerous receivers and endeared him to fans with his fun-loving, salsa-dancing?
Or will the injury a ruptured his right patellar tendon on which he had had surgery Monday rob him of the speed and elusiveness that made him great?
SEE ALSO: Can Tony Romo save the Cowboys?
He can return to 100 percent, but (his knee) is a car in a car accident, says one former NFL team physician, Dr. David Chao. Never brand new when fixed.
The sight of Cruz when he was injured on national television was difficult to stomach. He couldnt straighten his knee, and the tendon rupture had left his kneecap horribly out of place.
Overcome with emotion, his hands in front of his eyes as the tears flowed, Cruz couldnt hide his pain, even as he was carted off the field.
This is the second straight year that Cruz, 27, had his season ended early by a knee injury. He had surgery on his left knee in December after being injured in a game against Seattle.
But this is a more serious injury, one that is a rare among NFL skill position players. Only a handful of NFL players have come back to play from this injury, and Cruz would be one of the few, if not the only one, to return to his past form.
New York Jets legend Joe Klecko was a defensive lineman who suffered a similar injury in 1982 and returned to his team, though admittedly not at 100 percent.
There were people out there whispering in my ear going, Guys dont come back from that injury, Klecko recalled. I said, What? You know me, remember, I would never take that for an answer.
Even today, three decades later, a patellar tendon rupture cannot be repaired arthroscopically, meaning that the surgery is a major open procedure followed by a lengthy and painful rehab.
But if anyone can return, its Cruz, says his quarterback Eli Manning.
He will work his tail off and rehab and hopefully have a speedy recovery, Manning told reporters after the Giants 27-0 loss to the Philadephia Eagles. And get back to playing football and doing what he does, making plays on the field, soon.
What worries some, though, is that this is the kind of injury that could rob Cruz of his explosive speed and ability to change directions in running his routes that has made him difficult to defend.
How well he does depends on a number of factors, says Dr. James Gladstone, Co-Chief, Division of Sports Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
He could get back 100 percent, but its also possible if he doesnt get his range of motion There are a lot of variables that go into being in top form. If for whatever reason those dont come back, then he wouldnt be.
In the best case scenario, Cruz could possibly be ready for the Giants training camp next summer, doctors said.
The fifth-year veteran, a captain this season, had 23 receptions for 337 yards, a touchdown and a team-high 14.7 yard average, as the Giants were trying to get going after a disappointing start.
You just hate it happened to Victor because he loves playing this game, said Manning. He loves the practices. He loves competing, making plays, he is such a team player and leader in the locker room.
He has a great attitude toward the game of football, and so to see him get injured and be out for the season. I feel for him.