Thursday, September 29, 2011
Antonio Cromartie practices
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Antonio Cromartie's ribs took a big hit last week, but not his confidence.
The New York Jets cornerback, who left last Sunday's loss to the Oakland Raiders with a bruised lung and ribs, returned to full practice Thursday and declared himself ready for the Baltimore Ravens. Cromartie didn't sound concerned by the injury or his awful performance last week.
"Whoever I face (up) against, they're going to have a hard day," he said, looking ahead to Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and rookie Torrey Smith.
Cromartie wasn't too impressed with Smith, who started for the injured Lee Evans and finished with five catches for 152 yards in a blowout win over the St. Louis Rams. Smith caught touchdowns of 74, 41 and 18 yards in the first 13 minutes of the game.
Chances are, Cromartie will be assigned to Smith if Evans doesn't play, with Darrelle Revis covering Boldin.
"He's had one big game, that's it," Cromartie said of the second-round pick from Maryland. "He's had five catches for his whole career, and it's a three-game career. That's it. There's nothing on him."
It has been an up-and-down season for Cromartie. One week after winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two-interception game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he suffered one of the worst games of his career in Oakland.
Cromartie committed four penalties for 46 yards, fumbled a kickoff return that set up an Oakland touchdown and absorbed a shot to the ribs with about nine minutes left in the game. The initial fear was a broken rib, but he was taken to a local hospital and X-rays were negative, according to the Jets.
The injury occurred when he tackled wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on a third-down completion. Cromartie said he was so concerned about getting fined for an illegal hit that he altered his tackling technique.
"I tried to change the way I hit him because I didn't want to get a fine," he said. "At the last second, I put my shoulder in too much and it went from there. I turned to make sure I didn't lead with my head."
Cromartie disputed the penalties (two for pass interference, two for holding), claiming only one was legitimate. Coach Rex Ryan believes that Cromartie's unusual size (6-foot-2) and long arms can get him into trouble with penalties, adding that Cromartie tends to play with his hands too high.
Cromartie insisted he's not going to curtail his aggressiveness because "someone was calling penalties that shouldn't have been called." Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hinted that some of the calls were questionable and some "were pretty obvious fouls," but he also noted that Cromartie has had penalty-free games in the past.
"We need him to be more consistent," Pettine said. "We don't need a great game and, all of a sudden, it's a clunker the next week. We need to get Cro to the point where it's middle of the road, just solid."
Cromartie didn't have an explanation for his fumble, a blooper in which he muffed a kickoff at the goal line, inadvertently booted it ahead 10 yards and fumbled it again. He said he misjudged a "sidewinder" kick by Sebastian Janikowski.
"We won't have to face another kicker like that again," he said, "so there's nothing to worry about."
Cromartie probably won't return kickoffs this week. Even though he's planning to wear protective padding over his ribs, Cromartie likely will be replaced by Joe McKnight.
Four days after the injury, Cromartie said he still felt a "little soreness," but expressed confidence that he'll be 100 percent by Sunday night.
In other injury news, center Nick Mangold (high-ankle sprain) missed another practice, although he dressed and participated in some agility drills off to the side. Ryan said he's encouraged by Mangold's progress, adding that it probably will be a game-time decision. If he can't play, rookie Colin Baxter will make his second straight start.
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress left practice early with hamstring tightness, but he expects to be fine Sunday.
Rookie defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was limited with a sore shoulder, but is also expected to play.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.