Antonio Cromartie meant no disrespect, but he meant what he said.
The New York Jets cornerback started a mini-feud earlier this week when he told ”ESPN First Take” that he’d rank himself as the No. 2 wide receiver on the team, behind only Santonio Holmes. Chaz Schilens called it ”a slight” and coach Rex Ryan quickly quashed any tensions during a team meeting by telling his players to be ”mindful” of what they say in public.
”Honestly, I didn’t mean anything by it,” Cromartie said Friday, speaking about his comments for the first time. ”My whole thing was I was just simply explaining why I said it, that I could be one of the No. 2 receivers on the team by my physical traits and my work ethic. That’s how I feel. That was my opinion. Of course, you guys want to blow it up, but we’re going to let that go.”
Cromartie, who could actually play some at receiver for the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) this season, stood by his comment after he was asked on Tuesday where he thinks he’d rank on the team’s depth chart.
”No, I don’t regret saying it,” he said. ”I mean, why would I regret something that’s already been said? No, I didn’t regret saying it. If the receivers felt like they were disrespected . . . at the end of the day, they can come and talk to me and I can explain to them exactly what I meant. But, no I don’t regret saying it at all.”
Both Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have acknowledged that they might use Cromartie as a wide receiver this season because of his speed and overall athletic abilities. He has lined up at the position twice so far during training camp: once earlier this week in 11-on-11 drills and again Friday during 7-on-7 drills. He hasn’t seen a pass come his way on offense, though.
”At the end of the day, I’m a corner first,” Cromartie said, ”and whenever that time comes that I go out and play receiver, I’ll go out and do it.”
The Jets might need him. Their receiving corps is depleted right now with Holmes (general soreness) and Schilens (groin) not 100 percent, and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) sidelined since camp began.
Ryan thought Cromartie’s comments were mostly a joke and recognized that Schilens didn’t take them as they might have been intended. Schilens called it ”a teachable moment,” and added that he understood ”what I could do differently.”
”Cro’s just having fun with that,” wide receiver Patrick Turner said. ”People want to take certain things out and make them more serious than what it is. We’re just out there playing football and guys are competitive, and I’m sure guys on offense feel like they can do the same thing on defense but we just don’t talk about it.”
To a man, the players insisted it was no longer an issue, something they only talk about now when the media brings it up.
But, at the end of a practice Friday in which the defense mostly dominated, Turner caught a touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez — beating Cromartie on the play. The offense mobbed Turner and called him ”the No. 2 wide receiver,” taking a playful jab at Cromartie.
”I guess, I can still say I am (the No. 2 receiver), but that’s my opinion,” Cromartie said. ”Mark made a good throw and Patrick might have gotten a good push-off at the end. If you look at it, that’s the only play given up all day. Them boys can’t catch a ball on our defense.”
NOTES: NT Sione Pouha has not practiced since needing five or six stitches to close a cut over his left eye on Wednesday. He hopes to return soon, but can’t put his helmet on because of where the cut is located … Rookies LB Demario Davis and WR Jordan White practiced in pads for the first time in training camp after being activated from the physically unable to perform list earlier this week. … S LaRon Landry, operating on a practice ”pitch count,” was not dressed and didn’t participate for the second straight day. Ryan said Landry would likely participate in every third practice to make sure he doesn’t rush back from the Achilles/heel injury that put him on injured reserve at the end of last season with Washington.