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Giants' Victor Cruz: Criticism affected Hakeem Nicks

Of all players with 100 targets in 2013, Hakeem Nicks was the only one without a touchdown reception to show for the effort.

Nicks came under fire in his last season with the New York Giants, as speculation mounted that his play fell off due to "business decisions" in a contract year.

Former teammate Victor Cruz believes all of the criticism had a negative effect on Nicks' performance in 2013.

"I mean, anytime people say things like that and try to discuss your character, I think it takes a toll on anyone," Cruz said Monday, via the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano. "I think it did for him, and I think it's something where he wants to prove people wrong.

"Obviously he's a competitor and he wants to play and be able to do all of those things at a high level, and you could just see certain times throughout the game it just didn't look like he was himself."

Nicks' one-year contract with Indianapolis represents an opportunity for a fresh start.

The lack of touchdowns last year obscured a marked increase in yards per catch, from 13.1 in 2012 to 16.0 in 2013.

Despite offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's vague reference to Hakeem Nicks' conditioning last week, the wide receiver insists he's in the best shape of his life.

Nicks was on the field with the Colts' first-team offense in the preseason opener, losing Jets cornerback Dimitri Patterson for a 15-yard sideline grab.

Still just 26 years old, Nicks is primed for a bounceback year in Andrew Luck's offense.

*The latest Around The League Podcast highlights the winners and losers from the first week of preseason action. *

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