‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.

You can’t blame Tom Coughlin for being a little perturbed these days.

His wide receivers keep getting into fixes these days with nightclubs and bullets, and he has only a vague idea about whether his 6-3 team will have to face the Eagles’ biggest gun, Michael Vick, Sunday night.

Guess which one he’d rather concentrate his mental powers on if he had a choice.

Right. It’s bad enough that Coughlin has to figure out a way to wake up a first-half offense that has scored all of 16 points the last three games, including a scoreless first half against the Patriots two weeks ago. But now, he has to counsel Victor Cruz, Antrel Rolle, Chris Canty, Aaron Ross, and reportedly Hakeem Nicks (his agent said Nicks was home with his daughter), who spent the wee hours of Tuesday morning at the Juliet Supper Club in Manhattan.

Seems somebody who came into the club heavy got a little testy around 2:30 a.m. and killed another patron with shots to the chest and back. That same fellow injured two others, though the five Giants came away unscathed.

Coughlin’s message to them might well have included a history lesson on how nightclubs attract guns, and how guns can ruin a season, often a life. It was just in 2008 that Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the early morning at the Latin Quarter, taking that season’s hot start down with him and landing the receiver a two-year jail sentence.

“I would speak to him as a parent who would speak to their son,” Coughlin said of Cruz’ judgement. “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.”

It’s exactly the same sentiment Coughlin expressed when I questioned him about the Burress incident shortly before the Giants cut all ties with the wideout in 2009. Of course, the circumstances were different. Cruz wasn’t involved in this shooting, while Burress was actually the one packing.

The message is the same, though. Players by now should realize that a lot of bad things happen at these clubs. Drugging, thugging, plugging. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for players to hang out at these places.

It’s not like Coughlin has a lot of time for this nonsense, either. With RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and LB Michael Boley (hamstring) likely out for Sunday, the Giants are once again undermanned against a 3-6 Eagles squad that has lost four fourth-quarter leads. They’re kind of the opposite of the comeback-happy Giants; failing badly and not too happy about it.

Boley will be key here, however, since his speed and instincts might be the only thing standing in the way of Vick and some long gainers. Vick’s cracked ribs that will leave him at least questionable for the game won’t have an effect on Coughlin’s preparation.

In fact, the coach said, “I’m not going to believe Mike Vick won’t play until I see him not jog out there.”

Even if Vick isn’t there, the Giants still have to worry about running back LeSean McCoy and his second-ranked 906 rushing yards and league-leading 10 touchdowns. He alone can chew up a now-undermanned run defense that ranks 20th at 121.6 ground yards per game.

That’s to say nothing of a passing attack that can now exploit a young linebacking corps that will probably operate without Boley’s leadership. We saw the effects of that when San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis came wide open for a go-ahead, 31-yard touchdown catch as rookie linebacker Greg Jones blew the coverage.

Don’t look at the 3-6 record. The Eagles remain dangerous. And they’re certainly not going to lay down and let the Giants sweep them, Vick or no Vick.

They were always strong enough to keep Coughlin occupied. He didn’t need the extra worry of another wide receiver winding up with a hole where it doesn’t belong.

Should NFL players avoid clubs like the plague? Be heard in the comments below…


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