Antonio Cromartie embracing role as camp counselor
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- "Excuse me! Hello!"
Antonio Cromartie's voice could be heard over everything: the small crowd of fans gathered in the SUNY Cortland stands and the position coaches running Monday's receivers vs. defensive backs drill in the early stages of practice.
As he watched from the sideline, Cromartie couldn't help himself. He just felt compelled to speak up. "Excuse me!" he called out to Royce Adams.
The second-year cornerback had just been beaten by a receiver, prompting Cromartie to remind Adams of his coverage responsibilities.
Minutes earlier, Cromartie had gone through the same exercise with Ellis Lankster, reminding the young cornerback not to get "lackadaisical" after Lankster was beaten one-on-one by a wideout during the same drill.
Darrelle Revis' season-ending injury in 2012 and subsequent trade to Tampa Bay has opened the door for Cromartie, both as a player and an educator. The two-time Pro Bowler has always been outspoken. But now that training camp is underway, he said he feels an added responsibility to share his football knowledge with the young ones.
His words are often met with a head nod or a simple, "Aight, Cro." But occasionally, though, his critiques are met with an eye roll.
"Sometimes you get that sigh, like, 'Ugh,' " Cromartie said with a laugh. "But at the end of the day, when they go out and do it right, you praise them, too. You can't just get on them. You don't want to be that guy who's always nagging and nagging, but never gives them a compliment either."
Cromartie, however, still is in the process of growing himself. At 6-2, 210 pounds, he's the prototype for NFL cornerbacks: blessed with track-star speed, quick hands and great hips. But consistency has been one of the biggest criticisms of the 29-year-old's game.
And as the leader of the Jets' secondary, he will be expected to prove last year's Pro Bowl nod following a 2012 season with three interceptions and a touchdown wasn't a fluke. But as he continues to make strides toward becoming a shutdown corner in his own right, Cromartie is determined to reach back to help those behind him.
"I've always been behind the scenes," he said. "But me being an eight-year veteran now, it's like, OK, we know what to expect, we know what we need to try to do. And we know what we want everyone to look like, we know what we want this defense to look like. So that's where we want to be. Guys even make sure that I'm doing stuff right. And when the stuff is not going the way we need it to go, someone has to speak up."
The Jets are hoping Cromartie and rookie Dee Milliner can become one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. But first, Milliner -- who just arrived in Cortland Monday evening after signing a four-year deal -- has to prove he's healthy and up to speed, both in the classroom and on the practice field.
Chances are, Cromartie will be right there making sure Milliner's transition is an easy one.
"If there is one thing you can learn from Cro, it's how to prepare," defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said, adding that Cromartie is "one of the best" at watching and breaking down film.
Said coach Rex Ryan, referencing Cromartie's study habits: "I hope that's what Dee will take from him . . . Cro certainly is a guy who's willing to teach. That's a great thing."