FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It's not the kind of protection that can keep you from other kinds of trouble, but for New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, it can let him play this Sunday night in Baltimore. Cromartie suffered an injury to his ribs last weekend in what was a disaster of a game for the cornerback.
He did not practice with the team on Wednesday but returned Thursday to the field, wearing a protective vest which would limit any impact on his ribs. Cromartie participated fully in practice, including returning punts.
"I feel good now; after the game, I felt like a fish out of water, couldn't really breathe. Right now, I'm feeling good, feeling 100 percent. A little soreness here or there, that's about it," Cromartie said.
"[I] felt good running around, didn't give me a problem catching the ball."
While Cromartie will wear the protective gear against the Ravens, he may have more work to do in healing mentally from the game than any physical damage done last weekend in Oakland.
He's hoping to rebound from a disastrous Week 3 performance against the Raiders where he was called for four penalties and limped off the field with that rib injury. Cromartie is looking for a return to his old form, a form that, one week before his meltdown against the Raiders, saw him named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after a two-interception performance in a win over Jacksonville.
Cromartie said he has nothing to hang his head about in concerning his performance in Oakland, including the two pass interference calls.
"My whole thing was, I wanted to make sure I stayed aggressive. On some of the calls, I felt that they shouldn't have been penalties," Cromartie said. "My biggest thing was to make sure I stay aggressive, keep playing my game. My game isn't going to change from someone calling penalties that maybe shouldn't have been called."
Head coach Rex Ryan said that he likely won't be utilizing Cromartie as a kick returner this week to spare his body any more contact, but the issue regarding the cornerback's performance might be more one of form and technique. Because of his size, Cromartie is 6-2 and 210 lbs. and larger than the typical defensive back, he literally doesn't know his own strength; at least that is Ryan's rationale for Comartie's recent struggle with penalties.
Cromartie concurs with his coach.
"If you look at it, I'm bigger than most of the receivers that we face. When I'm jamming, most of the time, my hands are higher than a smaller [defensive back]," Cromartie said. "My hands are maybe up around the face, up around the throat. My main thing is that I try to make sure my target is a little lower."
Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium isn't the ideal chance for him to get his mojo back anytime soon. The Ravens, led by quarterback Joe Flacco, had a field day last Sunday in a 37-7 win at St. Louis. Throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns, Flacco found rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith five times for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Cromartie noted that the performance featured Smith's first-ever catches in the NFL.
Color him unimpressed with Smith's body of work.
"He had one big game. That's it," Cromartie said. "He has five catches for his whole career. That's nothing on him.
"Whoever I face against, they're going to have a hard day."
Kristian R. Dyer covers NFL for Yahoo!Sports and can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
- Antonio Cromartie