NFL teams are notoriously cautious about announcing injuries. No matter how obvious a sprain or a tear may seem, they'll wait for a scan to confirm. Not last night. It was mere minutes after Victor Cruz was carted off that the Giants announced he had suffered a torn patella tendon, and that nonexistent delay might have been the most disturbing part; it meant that they had to do was look at Cruz's leg to see that his kneecap was no longer in the right place.
The game was already out of reach when Cruz went to the corner of the end zone to attempt to haul in a floater. He had separation on Brandon Boykin, but planted his right leg at an awkward angle before leaping off his left. The ball bounced off his hands, and he clutched at his right knee before he hit the ground, and if the NFL had Cruz wearing a microphone, here's hoping that footage never sees the light of day:
"As soon as he hit the ground and he was over there, he was over there really screaming, really screaming at the top of his lungs, I was trying to signal for somebody to come over," Boykin said. "When you do hear a professional NFL player scream like that, you know that it's a serious injury."
It was as serious as it sounded; the patellar tendon is, as you'd expect, an important one for an athlete. It's the ligament that attaches the kneecap to the tibia (or shinbone), and it's what allows you to straighten your knee. Cruz is done for the year. He won't using that knee until December, and depending on the severity of the tear, should just be getting back to full speed around the time of next spring's OTAs.
Without even knowing any of that, the players on the field and the fans in the stands knew it was awful. There's something especially gruesome about a non-contact injury in a contact sport—of all the injuries that are supposed to happen, this wasn't one. But according to Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, it's a disturbingly regular scene.
"The sad thing about this game is that almost every week somebody's season is over," Kiwanuka said. "We don't really cover it as much. A lot of times you see a guy go down to the side of the field, you go to a commercial, you come back, but for us that's a member of our team that's gone, whether he's an undrafted free agent who's running down on kickoff or if he is one of the captains of our team."
If you're looking for the Philadephia narrative, it wasn't here. Fans cheered the dropped ball, but went to low murmurs when it became clear that Cruz wasn't getting up, and to polite, encouraging applause as he was carted off. (Even Michael Irvin knows the difference. Eagles fans still carry a black eye from cheering as he was carted off with what would be a career-ending neck injury, but Irvin has said, "Philly wasn't cheering my injury. They were cheering my departure.")
As Cruz left on the back of a cart, bawling because he knew his season was over, his teammates lined up to slap him on the back as he rolled by. They had trouble finding words. "Anything I would have said," Eli Manning said, "he wouldn't have heard me."
Ronnie Barnes, in his 34th season as the Giants' head trainer, has seen plenty of injuries before, so knew at least the severity of what he was dealing with. He also knows there really isn't much you can say to a player in that situation. "I said we'd take good care of him," Barnes said.