Jets-Patriots rivalry heats up|Brady shrugs off criticism from Jets’ Cromartie

Published 7:02 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

By By HOWARD ULMAN , AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —Tom Brady just wants to talk about football. The New York Jets won’t let him.
Day after noisy day, the mouths to the south keep moving. The quarterback tries to evade their onslaughts as if they were 300-pound pass rushers.
The latest blitz: Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called the mop-topped leader of the New England Patriots an expletive.
“I’ve been called worse,” Brady said, brushing it off like the heavy snow that fell on Foxborough. “I’m sure there’s a long list of people who feel that way.”
Cromartie made his comment Tuesday to the New York Daily News and didn’t back off on Wednesday, although he said he’s never met Brady.
“Why should I regret it? That’s how I feel,” he said. “As long as I’m in the NFL and he’s in the NFL, there’s going to be a hatred.”
Brady just keeps plowing forward.
The Patriots most valuable motorist, who was involved in a car collision three days before the season opener but made it to practice, traveled treacherous roads and arrived at work on time Wednesday.
“It was tough conditions for everyone,” Brady said. “But everyone’s here, ready to work and get ready for the biggest game of the year.”
Does anything faze this guy?
New York’s Rex Ryan hopes to be as successful outwitting New England’s Bill Belichick on the field as he is off it when the coaches lead their teams in Sunday’s divisional playoff game.
Ryan already has opened wide his bulging playbook of colorful remarks by throwing verbal jabs at Brady, who simply shrugs them off—but may not forget.
Last Thursday, the Jets boss said “nobody” studies like Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. Brady, Ryan said, “thinks he does” but gets more help from Belichick than there is with Manning. Brady acknowledged that he gets “a ton” of help from his coach.
On Saturday night during the Patriots’ bye week, Brady attended the Broadway play “Lombardi” about Green Bay’s legendary coach Vince Lombardi and missed part of the Jets’ 17-16 playoff win over the Colts on television. Ryan said on Monday, with a grin, that “Manning would have been watching our game.”
He also said that day that Brady “took a shot at me by his antics on the field.” Did he mean Brady pointed at the Jets’ sideline or looked at them after scoring? “I don’t like seeing that; nobody does. No Jet fan likes to see that. And I know he can’t wait to do it. He’s not going to say anything publicly,” Ryan said.
He’s right about that.
“It’s certainly not my intent. I’m sure there’s 50,000 cameras on the game. If I did that I’m sure they’d show it,” Brady said, sounding innocent. “I don’t think I’ve ever pointed at anybody. That’s not my style.”
Even if he did rub it in by gesturing to the New York sideline after scoring during a 45-3 win Dec. 6, it could have been prevented—by the Jets themselves.
“He was pretty demonstrative when we played him up there last time,” Jets linebacker Jason Taylor said. “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.”
Cromartie said he hopes Brady tries to pick on him Sunday for his remark.
But is there a line that can be crossed that goes beyond trash talking?
“I’m sure there is,” Belichick said calmly.
And what is that?
“I don’t know,” he said. “In my mind right now it’s the New York Jets Sunday at 4:30.”
Might all the jabbering have an effect on the Patriots performance then?
“We’ll see on Sunday night at 7:30,” Brady said. “That’s when everybody will be able to tell whether it played a role or not.”
It will be Brady’s first postseason game since the worst one in a career in which he is 14-4 in the playoffs with three Super Bowl championships. He lost in the first round last season to Baltimore, 33-14. In the first quarter alone, he threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked twice as Baltimore took a 24-0 lead. Even his home fans booed him.
He hasn’t talked much about whether that loss motivates him but he appears more driven this season. He’s thrown 36 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, just one more than the Ravens picked off in that rout.
“That’s kind of hard to do in this league,” Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said, “and he’s doing it like a piece of cake.”
Ryan keeps saying he respects Brady as a player but won’t punish Cromartie for using a nasty word.
“We don’t have to be all lovey-dovey and say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Ryan said. “We have a right to our opinion and a comment like that, it’s no big deal.”
Belichick says his team is focused on preparing for the game. His players say that Cromartie’s characterization doesn’t motivate them and that he’s entitled to his opinion.
When asked about the unflattering description, Brady smoothly shifted the direction to praising Cromartie’s skills.
“He’s a good player,” Brady said. “Revis is a great player. They have a great secondary and they are one of the best defenses we face. We’re going to spend a lot of time preparing for them. … The way they shut down the Colts offense is pretty impressive because we know how good that offense is.”
Cromartie has one of the four interceptions Brady threw. Revis held AFC receptions leader Reggie Wayne to one catch for a yard in the playoff win over Indianapolis.
For the Patriots, the goal is to beat Cromartie and his defensive mates on the field. The talk can wait.
“I don’t think we’re spending our time figuring out what we can do to combat what people say about us,” Brady said. “Not everybody has great things to say about our team or organization or certain players and that’s the way it’s always been.”
He’s even been criticized by his own coaches. Some, he said, have used the same word Cromartie used.
“Belichick’s called me that and my offensive coordinator calls me that,” Brady said. “I know they like me so maybe he really likes me.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. in Florham Park, N.J., contributed to this report.