FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Antonio Cromartie was surrounded by a swarm of reporters and refused to back down.
Yes, he most certainly did call Tom Brady an expletive. And, no way was the New York Jets cornerback going to apologize.
“Why would I regret it?” a defiant Cromartie asked Wednesday. “That’s my opinion and that’s how I feel about it. There’s no reason for me to sit back and take back anything I said about him, and I’m not.”
Cromartie made his controversial comments about the New England Patriots quarterback Tuesday to the New York Daily News, and they caused an already heated rivalry to take a nasty turn. Not that Brady minded much, or at least not that he was letting on.
“I’ve been called worse,” Brady said. “Belichick’s called me that and my offensive coordinator calls me that. I know they like me, so maybe he really likes me.”
Umm, not really.
“This has been going on since 2006,” Cromartie said. “It’s going to be a whole long situation. As long as I’m in the NFL and he’s in the NFL, there’s going to be a hatred.”
And just like that, Cromartie might have replaced his own big-talking coach as the most disliked guy in New England — something Rex Ryan joked with his cornerback about.
“I was just laughing,” Cromartie said. “Honestly, we couldn’t care less how they think of us and our organization.”
Ryan didn’t condone Cromartie’s comments, but also didn’t condemn them.
“I think that language was a little strong for me,” said a joking Ryan, whose use of expletives during HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last summer created a stir. “You shouldn’t like who you are up against right now. This is the playoffs. I can tell you our whole football team respects Brady and the Patriots. There’s no question, but hey, we don’t like any of them right now.”
Cromartie also doesn’t care if what he said makes Brady target him when the Jets (12-5) take on the Patriots (14-2) in Foxborough on Sunday.
“I hope so, I really do,” Cromartie said. “I hope he throws the ball 10 times my way. Make him pay.”
Ryan was asked if he thought the Patriots would go after Cromartie, and he tried some reverse psychology by throwing out his shutdown cornerback’s name.
“I think (Darrelle) Revis guaranteed victory this week,” Ryan said with a big grin. “Go ahead and call it Revis. That’s what I’m looking at. He did it. I heard him say it, so go ahead and do it.”
Cromartie, in his first season with the Jets after four with the San Diego Chargers, took exception to Brady pointing in the direction of New York’s sideline after throwing a late touchdown pass in New England’s 45-3 rout on Dec. 6.
“I mean, everybody’s seen the film,” he said. “Everybody’s seen the tape (of him) pointing and taunting at the sideline and at our players. It’s just ongoing. When you do stuff like that, it shows you’re not being a professional on the football field.”
Brady insisted he didn’t remember ever doing that, or trying to show up the Jets.
“I’m very emotional as I play,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever pointed at anybody. That’s definitely not my style.”
He added that he’s sure there are “50,000 cameras” at each game, and they’d capture him doing it if that were the case. But Ryan said Brady “absolutely” points at the opposing team after he scores.
“He does it so frequently,” Ryan said with a smile. “He’s mastered it.”
Cromartie thinks other teams feel the same way, but no one has come out and said they felt disrespected by Brady.
“I’m one of the guys that’s going to speak my mind,” he said. “So, to me, my opinion is going to be my opinion and if anybody doesn’t like it, I really don’t care.”
Well, he certainly has made that clear this week. But, does he really hate Brady?
“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Yeah, ‘hate’ may be a strong word, but that’s just how I feel.”
Cromartie acknowledged that he has never met Brady off the field, and there are “probably quite a few” other quarterbacks who point or show up other teams. And if he gets the opportunity to pick off Brady, he won’t showboat.
“I’ll just go right to my sideline,” he said, “and get my ball to one of our equipment guys so I can put it in my trophy room.”
Cromartie’s comments further ramped up a week of hype after Ryan said earlier that the game is “personal” between him and Belichick. Ryan also took a veiled shot at Brady last week while praising Peyton Manning, saying no one studies like him even though Brady thinks he does.
Ryan also said Manning would have watched the Jets’ game against the Colts instead of going to see a Broadway play, as Brady did.
“Maybe Rex is right,” Brady said, unfazed. “Maybe Peyton would have been watching.”
Brady isn’t innocent in all this, of course. He said in the preseason that he refused to watch “Hard Knocks” because he hated the Jets.
“With us, we’re just going to be who we are,” Cromartie said. “That’s the whole thing. I think that’s how Rex likes it. He’s going to be who he’s going to be and he wants his players to be who they want to be. At the end of the day, that’s the way you’ve got to carry yourself. If you want to go out there and be a phony, then that’s what you’re going to be. We hold true to ourselves.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Foxborough, Mass., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.