Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets looks on against...

Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets looks on against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (December 6, 2010) Credit: Getty


With Rex Ryan still beating himself up over Sunday night's beat-down in Baltimore, and with his players still smarting from the 34-17 loss, the Jets might do well to follow the psychological lead of outspoken cornerback Antonio Cromartie as they prepare for this weekend's AFC East showdown against the Patriots.

The loss to the Ravens was only a few minutes old when Cromartie anxiously looked ahead to facing Tom Brady & Co. And he was quick to renew his own vitriolic rivalry with the Patriots' future Hall of Fame quarterback.

"We play against Tom Brady and New England, it's a divisional game, it's something to definitely look forward to and get excited about," Cromartie said in a corner of the Jets' locker room. "We'll just do what we need to do, go out and make as many plays as we can and compete."

Bart Scott is the one who coined the Jets' "Can't Wait!" rallying cry, but it's Cromartie who's living those words this week. Even Ryan, who has done some of his best trash-talking during Patriots Week, wasn't all that enthusiastic about playing New England after suffering back-to-back road losses to the Raiders and Ravens.

"I'd rather play Summit," Ryan cracked Monday, referring to his son's high school team. "There's probably easier assignments than going up against New England at New England. But that's the cards we were given, and we're going to play."

As far as Cromartie is concerned, there's no one better to play right now than the Patriots. And yes, he feels just as strongly about his distaste for Brady as he did last year, when he referred to him with a derogatory term a few days before their last meeting in Foxborough.

Cromartie felt Brady had shown up the Jets during a 45-3 win in Foxborough last December, and he ripped Brady during the week leading up to the divisional playoff game. Cromartie was particularly upset about what he perceived as Brady's pointing to the Jets' sideline after a second-half touchdown.

"If you want to be a professional, be a professional," Cromartie said at the time. "You've been there before scoring touchdowns, so go back to the sidelines . . . I hope he'll throw the ball 10 times my way . . . Let the scoreboard speak for itself, which it did the last game [45-3]. Let your play speak for itself. Don't look at our sideline. That's the biggest sign of disrespect."

Time apparently has done little to soften Cromartie's take on Brady. And while he didn't refer to Brady with any derogatory words, he made it abundantly clear that he still doesn't like the quarterback.

"What I said last year, I meant it," Cromartie told me. "I'm not going to take back anything. I'm definitely looking forward to this rivalry game. I still have the same feelings. Feelings don't change. Whatever I said last year is not going to change."

And would he use the same strong language now?

"I'm not going to say it again," he said. "No need to."

Cromartie said he still has "a lot of respect for Brady. He's won three Super Bowls, threw 50 touchdowns one year. But at the same time, I'm going to go in and compete. He's a competitor, he's going to do what he needs to do and compete, and we'll do what we need to do on our end."

Cromartie now hopes he and his teammates can translate the emotions of the Jets-Patriots rivalry into a win on Sunday. "The thing for us is to go out and play and play up to our standards," he said. "We're a team that's going to back each other up. We'll fight for each other, no matter how the game goes or how it looks. We've got to come out and prepare this week, mentally and physically, and be ready to play our game."

There's no fear on this man's part as the Jets attempt to move into a tie with the Patriots -- and possibly the Bills -- at 3-2. "I'm looking forward to this rivalry game," he said. "Just go out, enjoy it and have fun."

Words to live by, especially after the pounding the Jets took in Baltimore on Sunday night. As far as Cromartie is concerned, there's no better way to respond than to deliver a figurative punch to the Patriots' mouth.

"We can definitely do it," he said. "All we have to do is play our game."