Our Huddle Up conversation series continues with Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who, now in his tenth NFL season, returned to New York this offseason from the Cardinals after having played all but one game as a Jet from 2010–13.
Cromartie’s second go-around in New York almost took an awful turn in the second quarter of a Week 1 matchup against the Browns, when he had to be carted off the field after suffering a non-contact football injury. (It turned out to be just a knee sprain, and he played 61 of 64 defensive snaps during the Jets Week 2 win over the Colts.)
In the following conversation, Cromartie recounts the excruciating 18 hours he had to wait before getting good news from doctors, plus, his rationale behind returning to New York, what’s it like to play with Darrelle Revis and why he’s no longer a trash-talker.
Melissa Jacobs: How are you feeling?
Antonio Cromartie: You know, pretty good at the moment. Not in much pain.
MJ: What was going through your head when you were carted off the field Week 1?
AC: Honestly, it was the same feeling I had when I tore my ACL in 2005. Everything felt the same, including the pain, and I was just thinking the worst.
MJ: At what point did you realize it was not an ACL tear?
AC: I didn’t know anything until I saw my MRI. That MRI was the next morning, Monday. I went to the doctor’s office, at maybe 9:15 and we went over everything. I was so relieved to discover a bone bruise and that I had hyperextended it. That was big and truly a blessing.
MJ: Did you sleep at all the night before?
AC: I couldn’t really sleep because I had a splint on and they didn’t want me bending my knee. I just tossed and turned and couldn’t get a grasp of going to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that was going on.
MJ: Luckily you made it back, and now your team is 2–0 in large part to your defense. How good are you guys?
AC: We’re good but I don’t want to say how good we are because we’re still building. I truly feel like there are areas throughout our defense where we can pick up something and be a lot more successful than we are. From a communication standpoint, everyone is doing a great job. It’s just a matter of putting everything together every Sunday. But the fact that we’ve produced nine turnovers in two games speaks volumes about the kind of guys we have and the coaching staff and our emphasis on getting turnovers.
MJ: During free agency it was reported that you had whittled your choices down to returning to Arizona, signing with Dallas or coming back to New York. Yes, you had the relationship with [former Cardinals defensive coordinator] Todd Bowles, and Darrelle [Revis] had just signed, but why did you choose the Jets over two teams that many considered to be playoff contenders?
AC: I think it was very much the attraction of having Revis and Buster Skrine in the secondary and having that relationship with Todd Bowles. I’d been around him for a whole year and that made things so much easier when it came to picking a team. Not only that but my family—my wife and my kids—this is our home. We bought a house here in 2012 and we really feel like this was home for us.
MJ: I know you said your family settled in New York, but from a professional standpoint, what did you miss most about the Jets when you were gone?
AC: To me it was just the locker room. You’re just so familiar with everyone. Over four years you’re just so familiar and know how things are run. Being released by New York was one of the most humbling experiences and taught me that you can’t get complacent with where you are. That’s something we as players may get because we feel like our job is secure from a money standpoint. But when you’re in a place where you really want to be and they release you, it hurts.
MJ: Can you describe the Todd Bowles way, if you will, and how Bowles is different from other coaches you’ve played for?
AC: He’s a guy where he just wants everyone to do what they’re supposed to do. Do your job. Be held accountable and go out and play at a very high level. Not only that but study and be smart to not only help yourself but help those who are around you. That’s the philosophy you get from him. He’s a straightforward guy. You always know where you stand with him. He’s not going to be a guy who’s going to beat around the bush and drag you along. I’ve really come to respect him over the past year.
MJ: What’s it like to play with Darrelle Revis, and how does he elevate your game?
AC: It’s fun. When you play with Darrelle you always have to elevate your game because you know you’re going to be thrown at a little more than usual. To be away for two years and come back into this system with him, we’re playing at a very high level, and it’s great. We’re just having fun.
MJ: You’re known as one of the league’s top corners but you’ve also been known as one of the league’s top trash-talkers. What’s your rationale?
AC: Honestly, I don’t even talk on the field. The only time I say something if is someone says something to me first. I’ve toned down a lot personally and when it comes to talking. I just try and let my play speak for itself. You earn respect from your peers by the way you play, not by the way you talk.
MJ: Considering how Twitter has grown and is such a breeding ground for some pretty severe trash-talking I think it’s pretty crazy that you were once fined $2,500 for ripping the food at Chargers training camp.
AC: It is beyond crazy. That was 2009 and being on Twitter at that point in time and thinking how big it is now is pretty crazy. I think when I first came into the NFL the biggest thing was MySpace.
MJ: You’re aging yourself there. Were gas prices also $1.50 a gallon?
AC: I know, I know [laughs]. Now as a professional athlete you have to watch what you say and be guarded because whatever you say will get out there no matter what. With social media, you have to watch what you do even when you’re just out and about because there are camera phones everywhere. Everything winds up on social. That’s the first place for news. It’s not the local news team; it’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
MJ: A couple more quick hit questions before I let you get back to not getting in trouble on social. Which wide receiver talks the most trash on the field?
AC: I don’t know. I don’t actually think I’ve ever faced a receiver that’s talked trash. The only one who ever did was Chad Ochocinco.
MJ: Who’s the toughest wide receiver you’ve matched up against?
AC: That would be my teammate, Brandon Marshall. We had a lot of battles going back from the San Diego-Denver days, and our Miami-Jets days too. Over the years I’ve probably matched up on him 14 times.
MJ: Who are the top three corners in the NFL right now?
AC: I don’t know. There are a lot of people who say they’re this or that. I can name the number one corner in the league and that, to me, is my teammate, Darrelle Revis. I can’t name two or three because there are different systems and in some the corner doesn’t even follow a guy.
MJ: You become NFL commissioner, what’s the first thing you do?
AC: I would never want to put myself in [Roger Goodell's] shoes.
MJ: What’s the worst rule in the NFL?
AC: I think the worst rule is if you get too close to the quarterback and you’re trying to get a sack but you get him in the head, it’s a 15-yard penalty. To me, that’s one of the dumbest rules. You can’t control your hands if a quarterback ducks and you hit him in the head. It’s not like you’re targeting his head; you’re just trying to make a play. They try and protect the quarterback, but not everyone else.
MJ: What’s the most memorable moment of your career so far?
AC: I actually have two. One is picking off Peyton Manning three times in 2007, and also in that same year returning the field goal return of 109 yards.
MJ: Lastly, who has been the most influential figure in your career?
AC: Early in my career it was Quentin Jammer in San Diego. Now it’s my wife and my kids. They are a part of my life every day and I want to make sure I’m going out and doing the things I’m supposed to do for them.