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Friday, June 21, 2013
Cro aims to fly higher than ever

By Rich Cimini

During the pre-Cortland hiatus, Antonio Cromartie will host a boot camp for defensive backs, his version of "Jets West."

Cromartie will rent a house in California for a week and train with several teammates, including Kyle Wilson, Aaron Berry, Josh Bush and Stephen Hill. It's the latest example of Cromartie, once perceived as an immature player, growing into the role of a team leader. It really started last September, when Darrelle Revis was lost for the season.

"I see him taking another step, I don’t think there’s any doubt," Rex Ryan said of Cromartie.

Cromartie flourished last season as the No. 1 corner, but this will be another important year. For all intents and purposes, it's a contract year. Even though he's signed through 2014, his cap number balloons next year to $14.98 million, including a $5 million roster bonus. The Jets pushed money into 2014 when they restructured his contract in March. It makes little sense to carry a cap figure that high, so there's a good chance they will head to the bargaining table after the season.

Cromartie, 29, will be looking for another score, one last bite at the apple. It'll enhance his value if he emerges as the leader of a defense that needs strong voices.

Discussing Cromartie's work ethic, Ryan mentioned two all-time greats -- Jerry Rice and Walter Payton.

"The great ones, the unusual ones, will try to take it to a level even higher, and I see that out of him," Ryan said of Cromartie. "I'm always reminded about what Walter Payton said. As great as he was, he was a legendary worker in the offseason, similar to a Jerry Rice.

"They [asked], 'If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?' He said, 'I would’ve worked harder.' That's unbelievable because I don't know if I've ever seen a guy work harder than Walter Payton. But that talks about the unusual guys. There are stars, and then there are guys that can play even at a higher level."