Florham Park, NJ – Once disgruntled, it is fair to say that former San Diego Chargers’ cornerback Antonio Cromartie is now in a happier place with the Jets. One might say that he is now gruntled.
After all, if a player can be disgruntled and in a bad spot, it stands to reason that he is gruntled if he is where he wants to be, right?
“This is a great place and a great place for me to be, I’m enjoying this right now,” Cromartie said. “I’m happy to be with the Jets and happy to be playing football here – this is a great organization.”
Semantics aside, the Jets are counting on Cromartie to return to the form of 2007, when the cornerback was an All-Pro selection with San Diego and one of the most feared playmakers in the secondary in the league. Since then, Cromartie has been besieged with questions about commitment and character, not to mention whispers of money woes stemming from child support owed. The former first round pick out of Florida State has as much talent as any player in the league, but it’s been a struggle for him to overcome the off the field distractions.
“He’s a truly talented guy but it seems like there is always something going on with him off the field,” said one league executive.
Despite the concerns, the Jets decided that Cromartie was worth the gamble, sending a pick in next year’s NFL Draft to San Diego to get a player who is in his prime at just 26 years old. While Cromartie’s tackles last season were nearly half of his total from 2008 and his interceptions over the past two years are exactly half of the tally from the All-Pro season of 2007, the Jets like what they’ve seen of Cromartie. He has the chance to be a gamechanger in what might be the league’s best secondary.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s a good player back there and with the other guys – Jim Leonhard and Darrelle Revis and Eric Smith – he’s going to be a real good fit from everything I’ve seen so far,” said tight end Dustin Keller.
Cromartie fits the Jets’ scheme perfectly and the hope is that playing opposite of Revis, New York will have two lockdown cornerbacks who will force teams to run the ball into their tough front seven. The presence of Revis along with the drafting of Kyle Wilson in the first round and the trade for Cromartie also means that the Jets are eyeing a possible playoff re-match with Indianapolis. In the AFC Championship against the Colts, the Jets didn’t seem to have enough cornerbacks to contain Indianapolis’ multiple looks and wrinkles.
For Cromartie, the return to the field could be one about showing himself to be a player still in his prime and still considered an elite head-hunter in the secondary, but that doesn’t appear to be his aim. During the Jets’ OTA session on Thursday, he was playing light and loose, fooling around with teammates and even joke tackling his positional coach.
“I’ve got nothing to prove, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” Cromartie said. “I’m here to win, I’m here to win with the Jets.”
He says that there is no animosity towards San Diego, citing the Chargers as the organization that gave him a start in football, drafting him in the first round in 2006 and letting him blossom into an All-Pro player. With the move to the Jets’ secondary and to New Jersey his focus– Cromartie said that the stereotypes of the Sopranos and the Jersey Shore aren’t necessarily true – he said that he can focus on football and be distraction free.
“I’m a professional and there are always going to be distractions, no matter what you do,” Cromartie said. “But you need to put those things aside and behind you. I’m here now.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for questions, comments and crude remarks at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012