NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Growing up in an impoverished city a little more than 11 miles from Giants headquarters, Victor Cruz heard his share of gunshots as a child, and he isn’t exaggerating.
The wide receiver got used to them, and it might have saved his life early Tuesday morning when gunshots erupted at a New York City club as he was celebrating his 25th birthday with defensive end Chris Canty and friends.
There were reports that five Giants were in the club at the time of the incident that left one man dead and two people wounded.
However, safety Antrel Rolle said he left the club before the shooting, and receiver Hakeem Nicks and cornerback Aaron Ross denied being there that night.
A shaken Cruz said on Wednesday that his clubbing days are done. He’ll instead stick to “going to barbecues and family get-togethers from now on.”
Coach Tom Coughlin addressed the team about the incident after practice, adding he spoke to Cruz as a parent would speak to his son.
“The only one I heard about initially was Victor, and thank God he was safe,”Coughlin said. “I would speak to him as a parent would speak to their son. I don’t know what good happens at 2:30 or 3 in the morning, I’ve never been able to figure that one out. Beyond that is between he and I.”
The players had off Tuesday, so they had no curfew.
The moment Cruz heard the pop, he got under the table at the Juliet Supper Club in trendy Chelsea section of Manhattan and made sure everyone in his party hit the floor, too.
“It happened so fast,” Cruz said Wednesday after the Giants (6-3) practiced for Sunday’s night game against the rival Philadelphia Eagles (3-6). “Not what I want in my life at this time.”
“I was just sitting there and you could hear it on the other side, the shots go off,” he said. “The rest was just me on the ground and trying to get out of there.”
Cruz several minutes on the floor, worried about more shots and the possibility of being trampled by the people trying to get out.
“Anytime anything like that happens it is frightening no matter how many times you have heard a gunshot,” said Cruz, who is tied with Nicks for the team lead with 40 receptions and four touchdowns. “Growing up where I grew up things like that were common, but not necessarily in the same area you are in. It’s definitely scary.”
The Montgomery Park area of Paterson where Cruz grew up had its moments. There were nights he remembered hearing gunshots outside his window.
“I’ve heard some being out as a young guy in the streets, being at a pickup game playing basketball and at the park across the street. You see gunshots going off and everybody running and things like that. It’s not the first time I’ve heard one or seen things like that, but you definitely don’t want to see one now at this point in my life.”
Gunshots in a New York City nightclub are something the Giants would like to never hear about again. Receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in late November 2008 when his gun slipped out of the waistband of his sweats.
His absence at the end of that season crippled the Giants’ offense and led to a first-round playoff loss to the Eagles. He also missed the next two seasons, serving a prison term on a weapons charge.
Cruz said he isn’t the type to bring a gun to a club, but he knows the Giants’ history.
“Obviously the stereotype is going to be there,” he said. “The Giants guy in a club and gun shots go off. I understand all of that. I knew I did nothing wrong, I was there just to have a good time with friends and that was it. I knew I wasn’t doing anything negative.”
“I’m still kind of naïve to it sometimes,” he added. “I go out and I think I’m this under-the-radar kind of guy and nobody knows me. Something like this happens and my name’s brought up. It’s tough to deal with initially because you know you didn’t do anything wrong. But because you play for the Giants, because you’ve been doing fairly well this year, my name will be brought up.”
The 29-year-old Canty said this was the first time he had heard gunshots, other than when he has gone hunting.
“What goes through your mind?” he said incredulously. “You are scared. The first thing that goes through your mind is ‘get out and get home safely. That’s your first priority.”
Canty called the incident an unfortunate tragedy.
“You hate that something like that is still happening and that it can take place,” the seven-year veteran said. “It’s just the reality of the world we live in. My mom says this all the time: ‘The life you save may be your own.’ It’s surreal. It’s just something hard to accept that something like that can happen.”
Police say the gunman and victim had argued. Artis Arthur, 43, was shot twice and killed. A 28-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were wounded and were in stable condition, police said.
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