Cortland, NY – If God created a cornerback, or if scientists dreamt one up in a petri dish, or gamers coded one onto a screen, they’d end up with Antonio Cromartie.
Not ex-Jet Darrelle Revis.
His speed. His physicality. His 6 foot 2 inch frame.
Those are the characteristics that tempted the San Diego Chargers to draft Cromartie in the first round. It was his attitude, however, that ultimately got him shipped to the Jets.
As recently as last season, Cromartie was a training camp problem child, declaring himself the Jets second-best receiver, picking fights in practice and ducking the media.
Lest we also forget his quite publicized feelings toward a certain Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady.
That all seems to be changing, however. A year removed from a Pro-Bowl preformance, the jettison of Revis and the drafting of young cornerback Dee Milliner, you might as well rename training camp “Camp Cro.”
“I’m just going a long with it, honestly,” said Cromartie, calmly fielding questions from reporters about his new role on the defense. “I love what I’m doing, trying to be the leader that I am, and just going out and having fun.”
There’s rarely a moment now when Cromartie isn’t in the ear of one of his Jets teammates, whether it be Milliner, former first round pick Kyle Wilson, or anyone else, coaching them, leading them.
“Man, I’ve seen some great stuff from Kyle [Wilson]. His mind is focused and everything else is right where it needs to be and that’s all you can ask for,” said Cromartie, who worked with Wilson a lot during the off-season. “He’s going out and trying to be dominant at whatever the position he’s going to be playing.”
Cromartie is no longer just a controversial sound bite or the butt of a joke (Butt Fumble, anyone?), fielding questions about the state of the defense, Milliner’s development, and even the ongoing quarterback controversy. The change is evident. He acts like a leader, he talks like a leader.
“Every day is a workday. When we touch the field we have to treat every situation like it’s a game situation. That’s what I try to preach to all the guys,” he said, rattling off quote upon quote as evidence that maybe, just maybe, he’s finally putting it all together.
On Friday night, the Jets will suit up in their first preseason game against the Detroit Lions with Cromartie drawing the unenviable assignment of covering All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
“Megatron vs. the Megacorner,” as head coach Rex Ryan put it.
“It’s the preseason, but at the same time that’s the mentality you don’t want to have, you want to come in and treat it like a regular season game. That’s how we’re approaching it,” said Cromartie, again oozing responsibility.
“You lose games the fastest at quarterback and cornerback,” said Ryan after practice on Tuesday, stealing a phrase he learned from an old scout. At least the Jets have one of those two covered.
And who knows, if Cromartie can keep this up over the long haul, then maybe the Jets didn’t trade the best cornerback in the league after all.