Offensive play

Cromartie runs off at mouth — but Brady just takes a pass

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By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / January 13, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — The bluster coming from Jets coach Rex Ryan this week is what it is: attention-grabbing and ultimately harmless.

But one of his players may have crossed the line with his comments.

In a New York Daily News article that ran yesterday, cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Tom Brady a seven-letter word that rhymes with “glass bowl’’ and didn’t back away from his statements later in the day, saying that he “hates’’ the New England quarterback.

Asked about Ryan’s assertion that Brady points to the opponent after a Patriots score, Cromartie told the Daily News, “We see that a lot. He does that a lot. That’s the kind of guy he is. We really don’t give a damn, to tell you the truth.’’

He was asked further what type of guy Brady is.

“An [expletive],’’ came the reply. “[Expletive] him.’’

Meeting with a throng of reporters in front of his locker, Brady initially seemed unaware of what Cromartie had said; informed of the unsavory term, his eyes widened a bit.

“Oh yeah?’’ Brady said. “I’ve been called worse. I’m sure there’s a long list of people who feel that way.’’

In an evening conference call with Jets reporters, Brady said Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive play-caller Bill O’Brien have both called him the A-word on multiple occasions and they like him, so he theorized that perhaps Cromartie likes him as well.

Wishful thinking.

“Do I hate Tom Brady? Yes, I do,’’ Cromartie told reporters yesterday.

The fifth-year former Pro Bowler, in his first season with the Jets after being traded by the Chargers, was asked what he thought Brady’s reaction might be.

“I don’t care,’’ he said. “Next question.’’

For Cromartie, the dislike of Brady dates back to his days with the Chargers, as it does for his former/current teammate, running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Cromartie was a rookie in 2006 when San Diego gave up a 21-13 fourth-quarter lead at home to New England in the divisional round of the playoffs; the Patriots went on to win, 24-21, after Troy Brown stripped Marlon McCree of a potential game-clinching interception. Stephen Gostkowski won the game with a 31-yard field goal.

New England’s celebration led Tomlinson to say after the game that the Patriots lacked class and it might start with their coach.

Ryan has been pecking at Brady for more than a week, starting with his comments before the Jets’ wild-card game with the Colts that Brady only thinks he studies as much as Peyton Manning does for games; on Monday, Ryan went further, saying he knows he took a shot at Brady, but Brady took a shot at him with his “antics’’ on the field during the Patriots’ 45-3 December win.

He also said that Manning would have been watching the Jets game on Saturday night instead of attending a Broadway play with his wife, as Brady did.

Brady did not deny the assertion that he taunts opposing teams.

“I’m an emotional player, so it’s all in the spirit of the game and competition,’’ he said. “I don’t know. They would probably be able to answer that a little better than I would.’’

Not surprisingly, Ryan defended Cromartie’s right to speak his mind, though both Ryan and defensive lineman Jason Taylor initially sounded surprised when apprised of what Cromartie said.

“Well, first off, in this country you’re allowed to have opinions and all that kind of stuff,’’ Ryan said. “Obviously, as an organization, we respect Tom Brady; there’s no question about it. But, is there dislike between us and Brady and Brady against the Jets and all that? Of course there is.

“But am I going to punish Cromartie for saying something or whatever? No. I don’t want that. We respect New England, but we don’t fear them. A comment like that is just the fact that they’re the enemy, like we look at them this week.’’

It was noted to Ryan that Cromartie’s words didn’t sound respectful.

“Well, again, we’re not apologizing for anything,’’ said Ryan. “Did we vote him to be the starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl? Yes we did.

“There’s plenty of respect, but we don’t have to be all lovey-dovey and say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. We have a right to our opinion and a comment like that, it’s no big deal.’’

Taylor said people don’t always choose their words carefully these days, but “have the freedom to say what they want.’’

He reiterated the stance of Brady and the Patriots that words don’t have much bearing on what happens on the field, and offered a simple solution to Brady’s antics.

“I know people talk about him celebrating or whatever or pointing at the sideline,’’ said Taylor. “I’ve heard things about that. And he was pretty demonstrative when we played him up there last time, when they scored a touchdown.

“I come from the school of thought where if you don’t want someone to celebrate or be excited or say something to you or do something that you might perceive as offensive, then don’t let them score, and they won’t do that.

“I respect Brady . . . as a person, No. 1, and as a competitor, and I think the things he’s done on the field this year have been nothing short of amazing. And the guy plays with a lot of passion.

“As an athlete, you can appreciate that. If he’s not on your team, obviously it’ll tick you off. But again, if you keep him out of the end zone, you won’t be offended by him.’’

John Powers of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Florham Park, N.J.

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