Jets’ Cromartie focused on football, family life

Antonio Cromartie has learned to ignore the jokes about his

personal life.

All the snide comments about him fathering eight children with

seven women? Say what you want because the New York Jets cornerback

isn’t listening.

”I don’t care about the public and what people think,”

Cromartie said between practices Friday. ”That doesn’t bother me

at all. I’m a father and a husband at the same time, so I can’t

worry about somebody else’s opinions.”

Recently married to model Terricka Cason, the mother of his

newest child, Cromartie is intent on being a family man and doing

right by all of his kids.

”That’s the only thing that matters to me,” he said. ”My kids

know that. That’s all that matters. I couldn’t care less. I know my

responsibilities and that is to be a father to my kids, first and

foremost, and a husband to my wife. That’s the most important thing

to me.”

Once considered one of the most promising young players in the

league, Cromartie was traded from San Diego to New York in March.

The Jets advanced him $500,000 of the $1.7 million he was due this

season to help clear up paternity issues.

”We’ve had conversations about it and as much as someone might

say it’s irresponsible, he’s the one who is responsible,”

defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman said. ”As long as he

understands that he’s responsible for taking care of them and their

well-being, that’s all any of us need to be concerned with. We’re

not charged with that.”

What the Jets are charged with is putting Cromartie in position

to succeed on the field. With All-Pro Darrelle Revis holding out in

a contract dispute, coach Rex Ryan has Cromartie playing in Revis’

usual spot at left cornerback. That’s a switch for Cromartie, who

played mostly on the right side in his four previous seasons with

the Chargers.

”I’m feeling good,” he said. ”I’m feeling more

comfortable.”

He had 12 interceptions in 2007 – including two in the playoffs

– and was selected for the Pro Bowl – and had two more picks there

– in his second season. Cromartie has only five interceptions

since, and his work ethic was questioned, as well as his

willingness to be physical.

The lowest moment might have come in the playoffs against the

Jets last season. Cromartie froze as running back Shonn Greene hit

the hole and scampered for a 53-yard touchdown in New York’s 17-14

win in the AFC divisional round.

”This is a new start,” Cromartie said. ”I feel like a rookie

again being around my teammates and being around this organization.

When you’re having fun, it eliminates a lot of things and you can

go out and play the way you’re capable of playing.”

He was also fined $2,500 by the Chargers in training camp last

summer for tweeting – under the handle crimetime31 – about the

”nasty food.”

”The food is great here,” he said, laughing. ”Can’t get fined

for that here because the food is good.”

Cromartie said he had no fun in San Diego, except for that 2007

season, because ”everybody” was taking things too seriously. He’s

convinced he’s a better fit in Ryan’s defensive system, and being

physical excites him.

”Rex makes you want to play for him, run into a wall for him,”

Cromartie said. ”That’s something I’ll love to do. I’m going to

pick up my game from a physical standpoint and just go out and play

football.”

He has been impressive so far in training camp, making a handful

of flashy plays through the first few days.

”He wants to hear his name mentioned again when you talk about

some of the best corners in the game,” Thurman said. ”With his

enormous talent, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t.”

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who played four seasons with

Cromartie in San Diego, sees a changed man.

”I definitely see a certain focus in Antonio and a

determination,” Tomlinson said. ”He’s back to the player he’s

always been.”

Thurman said he and Ryan scouted Cromartie when they were

assistants with the Baltimore Ravens and the cornerback was a star

at Florida State.

”He had one of the best pro days we’d ever seen,” Thurman

said.

That’s why the Jets jumped when they had an opportunity to add

him in the offseason – baggage and all.

”He’s got these great long arms and strong hands, let’s use

them,” Ryan said. ”Let’s be more physical at the line. His ball

skills are God-given. I don’t know how to describe him. I’ve never

seen anything like that. Somebody is calling him a spider because

he’s so long, he’s tall, and he’s got those long arms. … He’s a

rare guy.”

And, Cromartie is happy to make the most of a chance at

resurrecting his career.

”I would tell you that I have no problem telling you that this

is a better fit,” he said. ”It’s a lot more man-to-man,

get-in-your-face kind of defense that I love. This is something I’m

going to love to do, and I hope it’s for many years to come.”