Antonio Cromartie's comments annoy Rex Ryan, Chaz Schilens

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie talks to other players

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie talks to other players during practice at the Atlantic Health practice facility. (May 31, 2012) (Credit: Joe Epstein)

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan has spent much of the offseason trying to dispel the perception that his team is littered with me-first personalities. But much of the good will established in the aftermath of last season's locker room implosion was tested this week by Antonio Cromartie.

With one self-aggrandizing gesture, the cornerback discredited the Jets' wide receivers and left his coach in another awkward position. The fallout from Cromartie's comments -- he said on ESPN that he was the second-best receiver on the Jets, behind Santonio Holmes -- was evident in the facial expressions of Chaz Schilens and the clipped responses of Ryan.

The usually loquacious coach was visibly upset but remained tight-lipped about the interview.

"Listen to me when I tell you this," Ryan said Wednesday. "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 I'm going to say about it."

Ryan went on to say that Cromartie's remarks will be dealt with internally, rather than played out through the media. "We will handle this," Ryan said. "I will handle this."

But Schilens apparently hadn't received the internal memo in time. Immediately after practice, the former Raider smirked when asked for his reaction to Cromartie's comments.

"I think it's a slight, I'm not going to lie," said Schilens, who is one of eight Jets wide receivers hampered by an injury. "It's not something I would say. But I'm not him, I guess."

Cromartie, the Jets' No. 2 cornerback, said Tuesday on ESPN's "First Take" that he can run "every single route on the route tree," despite not having played receiver in four or five years. He also hinted that Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill weren't as versatile as he is. Cromartie declined to speak to the media Wednesday.

The Jets' receivers didn't address the situation with Cromartie, but Schilens still was irked a day later.

"I'll let him think whatever he wants," said the 6-4 Schilens, who had 23 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games (five starts) in 2011. "We'll address it on the field. He said it. That's how he feels. So it's my job to, I guess, fix that situation."

Questions have been raised about Hill's ability to adjust from Georgia Tech's run-first offense to the NFL's complicated passing game. Nevertheless, the rookie refused to blast Cromartie.

"Cro is Cro and I'm myself and whatever he thinks about, I guess we'll see," said Hill, who added that he has a great relationship with the cornerback.

Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said he wasn't bothered by the comments. Instead, he said of Cromartie: "He's a pretty confident player and he's got some swagger. We'll put him in the huddle if necessary.''

But Sparano downplayed the extent of the "Cro package,'' which entails only "a couple plays'' that he and the coaching staff have talked about.

When a reporter lightheartedly suggested to Ryan that the Jets should give Cromartie more reps at receiver because of the rash of injuries, the usually gregarious coach fought hard not to comment further. But Schilens, who has been slowed by a groin injury, said Cromartie isn't the first defensive player to think long strides and speed are the only prerequisites for being a wide receiver.

"Everybody knows Cro is unbelievably athletically gifted. Very fast. He's a great athlete," Schilens said. "But I've played with a lot of receivers. And playing receiver is about more than being fast. And I'll leave it at that."

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