FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It's the not at all awaited return of the Jersey Four! Here are the four things you really, really need to know about the Jets following Wednesday's practice (while understanding that a third “really” would not have been professional):
1. Antonio Cromartie hates Tom Brady. No, really. He does. Why? Because Brady pointed at the Jets sideline after a touchdown when the score was already 380-3 in the Monday Night Massacre. Now you might ask: Is that really enough to hate another man? Seems to be for Cromartie, who -- while apparently not caring that his own teammates (that would be you, Mr. Tomlinson) were celebrating after first downs in that same game while down six touchdowns -- ripped into Brady Tuesday in a New York Daily News story, calling the soon-to-be MVP an "a-----e." On Wednesday, Cromartie was asked if he regretted making those comments.
"No. Why would I regret them? That's my opinion and how I feel about it," said Cromartie. "There's no reason for me to sit back and take anything I said about him back, and I'm not."
Cromartie -- who claims that his ill will toward Brady goes all the way back to 2006 with the Chargers and the infamous (and incredibly stupid) whining about the Patriots doing Shawne Merriman's "Lights Out" dance on the field after a playoff win -- was asked if he felt Brady taunted the Jets in that Week 13 blowout.
"Yeah he did," said Cromartie. "Be professional. Just be a pro. He's been there before. Act like you've scored touchdowns before. My opinion is never going to change about Brady. At the end of the day it's going to be what it's going to be. I hate him, he hates me, he hates the Jets. As long as I'm in the NFL and he's in the NFL there's going to be hatred. So there you go."
Tough to take Cromartie seriously when he delves into thoughts on professionalism or matters of self-control. This is, after all, a man who has fathered eight kids with nine women in six different states (a stat perhaps more mind-boggling than 335 passes without an INT). Brady had a conference call with the New York media (and me) Wednesday afternoon and was typically, well, professional in his response to Cromartie.
"None of this really means anything," said Brady. "All that matters is how we are practicing today and tomorrow and Friday and how prepared we are for the game and how well we execute under pressure on Sunday."
So there you go. I think the Cromartie/Brady story can finally be put to bed. Hey, it got us through Wednesday and now we can actually focus on a football game. Cromartie wanted headlines and he got 'em. A reality show probably awaits (though he could be on one for 50 years and never top this "Hard Knocks" moment).
Rex Ryan, it should be noted, didn't exactly play the role of Warden Norton when it came to disciplining Cromartie for his comments, instead thanking Cromartie for moving Ryan down to the No. 2 spot on the public enemy list in Boston.
2. The Jets have faith in Wayne Hunter. Damien Woody was placed on the IR Wednesday after suffering an achilles injury late in last week's win over the Colts. Ryan praised the work Woody did on Robert Mathis in the Colts game and acknowledged that losing Woody is "tough," but was quick to praise Hunter, who will step in and start on Sunday.
"We're fortunate, I've always said that I think we have the best backup tackle in the league in Wayne Hunter," said Ryan. "He's played a lot of football for us, so we have a lot of confidence in Wayne."
Hunter started the last three games of the regular season (following arthroscopic knee surgery for Woody) and counts that experience -- with one game in particular -- as a huge plus leading into Sunday's game.
"I'm happy I got those [games] going into the playoffs," Hunter said. "It'll help out, I think. And the Pittsburgh game -- Pittsburgh runs a 3-4 as well, so that'll help out, help me going into this game. But [Casey] Hampton, he's not Vince Wilfork. No one is."
3. In other injury news, Brad Smith again missed practice with a groin injury. Ryan expects Smith to play and resume kickoff duties (despite the two key returns from Cromartie on Saturday) as well as take some snaps in the Wildcat. Santonio Holmes (quadricep) did return to practice, and Mark Sanchez practiced fully after being limited with a shoulder injury. Sanchez had his weekly session with the media after practice and was optimistic about his health heading into his third meeting with the Patriots.
“Honestly, it feels the best it’s felt in three or four weeks,” said Sanchez of his shoulder, which he injured in Week 14 against the Steelers. “I was full practice today for the first time in a while and that’s huge. We know it’s getting better and that’s the most important thing.”
4. With all this hate going on, turns out there's some room for love. It's a thin line, in case you didn't know. Darrelle Revis and Ryan both heaped praise on Devin McCourty Wednesday, with Revis calling the rookie "the real deal, for sure." The 2009 Defensive Player of the Year wasn't interested in comparing McCourty to himself, but said that he had a "big, big future. He's one to watch."
Ryan didn't refer to McCourty by name, calling him "that rookie from Rutgers" when asked if he thought the Jets could pick on the young secondary of New England.
"I mean, how many picks does he have?" asked Ryan. "Is he going to have to intercept 20 balls before people start throwing at him? I don't know. But he's done a great job, he makes big plays. So I don't think we'll necessarily be picking on him."