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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Updated: November 17, 12:25 PM ET
Giants' Victor Cruz uninjured in incident

By Jane McManus
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he took cover under a table Tuesday morning when a gunman opened fire at a Manhattan nightclub, killing one man and injuring two others.

"I hit the floor," Cruz said Wednesday. "[It was] just a complete melee. Everybody was trying to get out of there."

Cruz and Chris Canty were the only Giants who said they were at the club when the shooting occurred shortly before 2:30 a.m. ET at the Juliet Supper Club on West 21st Street.

Cruz and Canty, who were among a number of athletes and non-sports celebrities at the club, were not injured and not involved in the shooting.

"There is nothing to indicate that any of the well-known individuals in the club that night had anything to do with the shooting," New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul J. Browne told the New York Times.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle said Wednesday that he had been at the club, but left before the shooting took place. Aaron Ross and Hakeem Nicks both said they were not at the nightclub, refuting reports by the Times and the New York Daily News.

"I don't even know how my name got caught in the mix in that," Nicks said Wednesday.

Cruz, Canty and Rolle didn't violate any team rules or curfews; the incident happened on what is essentially a weekend night for football players, whose off days are generally on Tuesdays.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin sat down and spoke to Cruz, and his first question was about whether the receiver and his friends were OK.

"The only one I heard about initially was Victor," Coughlin said. "Thank God he was safe. I would speak to him as a parent would speak to his son. I don't know what happens good at 2:30 or 3 in the morning. I've never been able to figure that one out. And beyond that it's between he and I."

According to reports, Artis Arthur, 43, of Brooklyn, was shot in the chest and back and was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. A second man, Tracy Ryals, 28, also of Brooklyn, was shot in the arm and buttocks and is in stable condition at Bellevue. A third victim, Jonai Washington, was shot in the leg and was treated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the Daily News reported.

Other pro athletes at the nightclub included NBA players John Wall, Carlos Boozer, Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook and Chris Duhon, and Chiefs lineman Branden Albert, the Times reported.

Even though the Giants on hand were not involved or injured, the incident conjures up bad memories from 2008, when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh at the Latin Quarter club in midtown. Burress was sentenced to two years in prison in September 2009 after pleading guilty to gun charges.

Cruz, 25, was aware that anything involving a nightclub, NFL players and guns could draw a comparison with what happened with Burress.

"A little bit, but I knew that I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't have anything illegally with me or anything of that nature," Cruz said Wednesday. "I understand that I gotta be smart. The season is what's most important, and if it's not a family barbecue or a house get-together, I won't be there."

Coughlin also addressed the team as a whole. Canty said the subject was about the responsibility that players have to their teammates and each other in the middle of the NFL season.

"You have to be aware of the position that you put yourself in," Canty said, "so there's a lesson to be learned."

Canty was shaken by what he experienced. He said he had never heard gunshots outside the context of a hunting trip, and when he learned that someone died in the shooting, it has made him re-evaluate how he wants to spend his off time.

"I hate that something like that is still happening, that something like that can take place, but it's the reality of the world we live in," Canty said.

Later, he added, "Wrong place, wrong time is not an excuse, and it's not going to keep you from being a potential victim in a situation like that."

Cruz, who grew up in Paterson, N.J., said that he heard gunshots growing up from Montgomery Park close to his home. His first thought Tuesday morning was his girlfriend of 10 years, Elaina, who is pregnant with their first child. Their daughter is due Jan. 24.

In some ways, Cruz thought he had played his way out of having to hear the sound of gunfire.

"It's tough just going through something like that," Cruz said, "especially coming from where you come from. ... That wasn't my first time being in a situation like that or hearing gunshots.

"Just when you think you've strayed away from that lifestyle and you're one of the fortunate few to get away from, it happens again. So I'm going to take it down for right now; I'm going to play it real easy. I have a baby on the way so I can't be involved in that any more."

Eagles safety Jarrad Page was also among those present at the nightclub, the Times reported.

The Eagles announced Wednesday they had released Page and promoted wide receiver Chad Hall from the practice squad. But coach Andy Reid told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that the incident had "nothing to do with his release."

"He's a good kid," Reid said of Page.

Jane McManus is a columnist and reporter for ESPNNewYork.com.