Antonio Cromartie thinks he’s the second-best wide receiver on the New York Jets behind Santonio Holmes. One problem: He’s a cornerback.
Cromartie’s bold comments predictably didn’t sit well with the Jets’ actual receivers, particularly Chaz Schilens, who thinks his teammate should pipe down.
”I think it’s a slight,” Schilens said after practice at training camp Wednesday. ”I’m not going to lie. I just wouldn’t say it. It’s not something I would say. I’m not him, I guess.”
Cromartie, who could play some at receiver this season, was asked on ”ESPN First Take” on Tuesday where he thinks he’d rank on the team’s depth chart. He said he’d be second to Holmes – putting him ahead of every other receiver, including Schilens, who signed as a free agent in March.
”I heard that,” Schilens said. ”I’ll let him think whatever he wants. I think he thinks that (playing) receiver is a little different than what it actually is. He’s unbelievably talented – and he plays cornerback. So, I don’t know.”
Coach Rex Ryan heard the comments from Cromartie, too, and wasn’t pleased.
”I’m going to say this right now,” Ryan said. ”Listen to me when I tell you this: I’m aware of what was said, OK? I’m on top of it. I’m telling you that right now. I’m on top of it, and it will not be a problem. And that’s all that I’m going to say about the whole thing.”
It was clearly an attempt by Ryan to defuse the first sign of tension in the locker room – something that derailed the team last season. Meanwhile, Cromartie walked past reporters and told the team’s media relations staff that he would talk Thursday.
Schilens said he hasn’t personally talked to Cromartie about his comments.
”We’ll address it on the football field,” he said. ”I kind of thought it was a joke, but I guess he said it and that’s how he feels, so it’s my job to I guess fix that situation, so we’ll see what goes on in practice. He’s entitled to think whatever he wants.”
Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill, the team’s second-round draft pick, wasn’t offended – even if Cromartie thinks he might be better than him at what he does for a living.
”Oh, no. I mean, I wouldn’t be upset,” Hill said. ”I’m just trying to be Stephen Hill and trying to stay in my place.”
But that place might actually be the No. 2 spot, contrary to what Cromartie thinks. Hill has been impressive throughout training camp, showing some speed and good hands during the first week. The team is counting on him to make an immediate impact this season.
”Right now, I always feel like I’m the best receiver on the team,” Hill said. ”Of course, Santonio is the veteran, but as a wide receiver, you always want to be the best, and that’s how I feel.”
New York has 12 wide receivers in camp – not counting Laveranues Coles, who’s working as an intern with the scouting department – with a combined 441 career NFL catches. The alarming thing, however, is that Holmes has 338 of them, with Schilens a distant second with 72. Jeremy Kerley (29) and Patrick Turner (10) are the only other players with at least one NFL catch, leaving the other eight combining for zero.
Add the inexperience with the injuries, and Mark Sanchez and the rest of the quarterbacks don’t have many guys to throw to at the position.
”I think we’re all right,” Schilens said. ”I think a few guys are a little nicked up here and there. Once everyone gets back, I think we’ll be fine. I think we have a lot to learn, but I mean, we have enough experience in enough areas and we know what we’re doing with the guys that are out there.
”I’m not that worried about it, to be honest.”
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano preferred to not get into much of what Cromartie said, but seemed to like the cornerback’s moxie.
”I’ve said this before: I’m just pleased that Cro feels like he can help,” Sparano said. ”I’ve got to go against the guy and I know his ball skills. I know he can run and those things. He’s a pretty confident player and he’s got some swagger. Players with swagger, we’ll put them out there in the huddle, if necessary.”
And, in the Jets’ case, of course, it might be. New York finished with just four healthy players – Hill, Turner, Dexter Jackson and Raymond Webber – at the position Wednesday. Ryan is disappointed that many of the receivers came into camp not in tip-top shape, which has led to several ”soft-tissue injuries.”
Even Holmes was held out of 2-minute drills near the end of practice because he, too, had a ”soft-tissue injury. But Ryan later said – through a team spokesman – that his comments about the wide receiver group didn’t apply to Holmes. Schilens (groin) and Kerley (knee) are among the walking wounded.
”Part of it is tempo, but part of it is the responsibility of the guys,” Ryan said. ”You have to be in shape. You have to take care of your bodies. That’s frustrating.”
With the rash of hamstring and groin tweaks during the first week of camp, Ryan has even adjusted the start time of practice by giving the players an extra 10 minutes of stretching to try to prevent further injuries. But, if this keeps up, Cromartie actually might have to step in and work a bit more on offense. So far, he has been in on one play at wide receiver: a go-route a few days ago.
Still, Schilens thinks Cromartie might not totally understand what it takes to play the position in the NFL.
”Everyone knows that Cro is unbelievably athletically gifted, very fast,” he said. ”He’s a great athlete, but I’ve played with a lot of fast receivers. Playing receiver is more about just being fast. I’ll leave it at that.”
NOTES: NT Sione Pouha left early in practice with a ”nick” over his left eye that required ”five or six stitches.” He said he should be fine to practice Thursday. ”I think I’ll have to review my modeling career now because of the cosmetics, so we’ll see what happens,” Pouha said, a big white bandage covering the cut. … RB-KR Joe McKnight sat out practice after needing intravenous fluids following a bout with food poisoning. … OL Vladimir Ducasse, competing with Matt Slauson for the starting job at LG, injured his left knee when a teammate fell on him and left practice, but said he’s fine. … Rookie S Antonio Allen, a seventh-round pick, has three interceptions in camp, including one on a deep pass into the end zone thrown by Tim Tebow on Wednesday.