There’s no backing down from Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie refused to backpedal on Wednesday afternoon from comments made last January before the AFC divisional round in which he called Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an “a—hole.”
During his weekly press conference, Brady abruptly walked out after repeatedly being asked by reporters about Cromartie’s comments. Brady failed to take the bait, calling Cromartie an “excellent player” and joking that he’s been called worse names.
“I don’t care what he says about me. I really don’t,” Brady said.
An empty stage a few minutes later would prove otherwise.
While Brady was avoiding the attention, Cromartie stayed on the same message as last year, although he refused to use the same word choice. The Jets’ cornerback also didn’t back down from wanting to play the Patriots’ star quarterback once again, even invoking the “Can’t wait” terminology made famous by teammate Bart Scott.
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“It’s going to be fun, can’t wait, as in Bart’s terms, can’t wait,” Cromartie said. “I love playing against New England. It’s fun, it’s a rivalry. Hopefully the words I said last year make it bigger.”
The words from Cromartie last January inspired the Jets in that 28-21 win at Gillette Stadium, limiting Brady to 29-of-45 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Brady was sacked and hurried like at no point during the regular season. The Jets’ ability to get pressure on Brady and the coverage job of Darrelle Revis and Cromartie were keys in the win.
The gameplan for the Jets will be to throw off Brady’s timing as much as possible to try to get their receivers out of sync with their quarterback. Cromartie called it “beating the hell out of receivers” and it is the same philosophy that worked so well last January.
“We know what type of player [Brady] is. He’s a great quarterback. We just have to do the best in the secondary of covering those guys the best we can,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “I think we did a great job last year in the playoffs covering them very well, just playing close coverage. That’s what we’re going to try and do again when we go out there on Sunday.”
Cromartie was a target on the field in that game as the Patriots repeatedly tried to expose him. But he was also in the scope of New England fans with their jeers and gestures directed at a player who days earlier called out the face of the franchise.
“I hope I’m a target this game. I want to be a target every game,” Cromartie said. “I hope I get booed again, honestly, I hope I get booed again. They’re not my fans; my fans are here in New York.”
Despite the animosity, there is a healthy respect from Cromartie for Brady, acknowledging that the Patriots quarterback is an elite player. The memory of just how good Brady can be is still fresh in Cromartie’s mind. In a Week 13 loss at the Patriots last year, Brady had 326 yards passing and four touchdowns.
“He’s the best in the league at what he does,” Cromartie said. “If the defense makes mistakes, he will make you pay for it. He’s the best in the league; he has three Super Bowl rings.”
But still, Cromartie doesn’t like Brady that much.
“I’m not going to change how I feel about Tom Brady from what I said last year. Do I respect him? Yes,” Cromartie said. “He’s a guy with three Super Bowl rings, but when we’re on the football field, I don’t give a damn.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.