L.T., Cromartie thrive at Chargers’ expense

The grin told the story and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) wasn’t afraid to spell that out.

After scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help the New York Jets to a comeback victory Sunday at Denver – a place where Tomlinson had plenty of fine moments during his nine years as a San Diego Charger – the running back was asked if the moment was just a touch more delicious because his former team was struggling.

“No comment … the smile says it all,” Tomlinson said, unable to hide his glee.

Earlier in the day, the Chargers had fallen to 2-4 with a stunning loss to the St. Louis Rams. While it may be small of Tomlinson to think that way, his divorce from the Chargers was unduly acrimonious. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said all the right things publicly, but made no secret of his private disdain for Tomlinson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie(notes), who is also with the Jets now. Both players are well aware of the ill will.

LaDainian Tomlinson celebrates scoring against the Broncos.
(Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Tomlinson and Cromartie continued to play vital roles in leading the Jets to a league-best 5-1 mark. Both are making the most of their cross-country transfers. Tomlinson is currently seventh in the league in rushing with 490 yards, despite getting only 15.3 carries a game in his time share with Shonn Greene(notes). Tomlinson is averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry, back to the kind of numbers he put up during his prime in San Diego.

As good as that revival is, Cromartie’s may be better. With No. 1 cornerback Darrelle Revis(notes) trying to get back in shape after a protracted holdout and subsequent hamstring injury, Cromartie has returned to the form that made him a Pro Bowler in his second season. So far this season, Cromartie has been charged with covering Randy Moss(notes) twice and took on Denver’s Brandon Lloyd(notes) on Sunday. Lloyd came into the game leading the NFL in receiving.

Lloyd exited Sunday’s game with four catches for 74 yards. That’s respectable considering Lloyd was targeted 10 times. In fact, it would have been 11 targets if not for a terrible pass interference call against Cromartie in the third quarter.

Lloyd’s only significant catch was a 29-yard grab along the right sideline that came on a perfect throw from Kyle Orton(notes).

You can’t play much better than Cromartie is playing right now. At this pace, he’s going to hit free agency (assuming the rules get changed to allow him to be an unrestricted free agent) after this season and command well over $10 million a year.

“My mind is not even there, man,” Cromartie said after the game against Denver. Likewise, he wasn’t much focused on saying anything about San Diego. At the same time, his teammates know.

“Cro’ has taken a lot of criticism,” linebacker Bart Scott(notes) said. “People talked about his technique and how he’s playing. They talked about his personal life. They talked about his work ethic, everything, man. Everything. He’s come here and done what’s asked of him. Just taken people on, done what [coach] Rex [Ryan] asked. You do that, you’re going to be fine.”

Right now, both Tomlinson and Cromartie clearly are just fine.

QUICK SLANTS

Super Bowl XXXVII tickets.
(AP photo)

Ornstein expects probation

One intriguing story that didn’t get a lot of play in the media was the recent decision by prominent marketing agent Mike Ornstein to plead guilty to felony fraud charges involving trading cards and Super Bowl tickets. Many people around the NFL are concerned that in an effort to avoid time in prison, Ornstein would give up information on team and league personnel who have been rumored to have scalped tickets over the years.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Cleveland has already indicated that the investigation is ongoing. However, Ornstein said over the weekend that he does not expect to face prison time.

“It looks like I will be getting probation,” Ornstein said in an email.

He is in the process of paying a $350,000 fine as part of his plea.

In addition, a high-level NFL source said he expected that Ornstein will not give up additional information. That will allow Ornstein, who has a history of working for the Oakland Raiders and the NFL, to return to his business as a marketing agent.

“If he gave up anybody, he’d never be able to work in the league again and he knows it,” the source said.

Ornstein has had some positive moments along the way. Since working with Reggie Bush(notes) when Bush was drafted No. 2 overall by New Orleans, Ornstein was at the center of numerous charitable events for Bush and the Saints. He also became very close with Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis.

But it remains to be seen how many teams, coaches or players will want to have Ornstein around now that he is a two-time offender. In 1995, Ornstein pleaded guilty to mail fraud when he was working for the NFL. He eventually lost his job with the league and was subsequently banned from the league offices.

Still, Ornstein has his supporters. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the man who was at the center of the league’s personal conduct policy, tiptoed around the issue of Ornstein’s involvement with the league and teams.

“That’s a decision the clubs are going to have to make,” Goodell said. “We don’t tell them who to hire. He used to work for NFL Properties as you know. He’s been an employee of a club. He’s had a relationship with the NFL for some period of time. I hope people will make a good judgment about the types of people they have involved with their organization.”

Top five

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1): To all those people who say that QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) isn’t the most valuable Steeler, you need to get your head examined.
2. New York Jets (5-1): Nice comeback win over Denver, led by the critical headiness and calm of QB Mark Sanchez(notes).
3. Indianapolis Colts (4-2): Hmmm, so much for those opinions about QB Peyton Manning(notes) losing a little zip on his fastball. He looked great again.
4. New England Patriots (4-1): Seems that Deion Branch(notes) didn’t forget much over the past four years while away in Seattle.
5. Baltimore Ravens (4-2): When the game is on the line and you’re on the road, you have to open up the offense more than the Ravens did at New England.

Bottom five

28. San Francisco 49ers (1-5): The 49ers finally won, but being the best team in the Bay Area doesn’t mean much these days.
29. Oakland Raiders (2-4): Yeah, they’ve won two games, but they’re just not a team that can be trusted.
30. Cleveland Browns (1-5): Give QB Colt McCoy(notes) some credit. He wasn’t great in his debut, but he was respectable against the mighty Steelers.
31. Carolina Panthers (0-5): The only thing that kept the Panthers from dropping to No. 32 was that they had the week off.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-5): At least the Bills didn’t lose last week. Yep, these days in Buffalo, Bills fans cheer for the bye week.

This and that

Vincent Jackson averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his five seasons with the Chargers.
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

To all the Chargers fans who were siding with the team in its battle with wide receiver Vincent Jackson(notes): What do you think now that tight end Antonio Gates(notes) and wide receiver Legedu Naanee(notes) are hurt and the hard part of the schedule (New England, Houston, Tennessee and Indianapolis are up in four of the next five games) is coming? Even if 2-4 San Diego changed its stance on signing Jackson to a reasonable one-year deal or even a long-term contract, Jackson still has to be on roster exemption for three weeks. Sometimes it doesn’t pay for a team to take every measure possible against the players.

By the way, the decision by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to allow Jackson and New England guard Logan Mankins(notes) to stay away from their teams until after the trade deadline was a nice bit of progress. Moreover, it saved the sides about $500,000 in costs over a possible arbitration hearing.

How far gone is the coaching situation in Dallas? So bad that even the defensive players aren’t listening to Wade Phillips. “Wade talks … time to zone [out],” one defensive player wrote via text message this week. Until now, most defensive players stood by Phillips, believing that his ability to at least coordinate the defense deserved respect. While owner Jerry Jones continues to stand by Phillips, the support for the coach is crumbling.

It’s probably just a coincidence, but on the same day that the Dolphins cut LB Bobby Carpenter(notes), ESPN reported that Bill Parcells cleaned out his office at the Miami facility. Carpenter was a first-round pick by Dallas (and Parcells) in 2006. Parcells was accused of having blinders when it came to Carpenter, whose father Rob also played for Parcells. Carpenter is also represented by the same agent (Jimmy Sexton) as Parcells. That said, Carpenter spent part of the offseason with St. Louis and one Rams source said recently, “Great guy, loves football, but he can’t play.”

It was interesting to hear former coach and current Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson weigh-in on the Vikings and Brett Favre(notes), saying that he would bench Favre if the Vikings lost to Dallas. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense for a team that has gone all-in for the season. Beyond that, Johnson is talking big, but didn’t have the guts to do the same thing in 1999 when he wanted to bench Dan Marino.

Kudos to former NFL quarterback and current college football analyst Brian Griese(notes). He recently purchased an 8,000-square-foot home in Denver to house Judi’s House, a home for children who have lost a parent. The home just served its 5,000th child since opening in 2002. It was named in honor of Griese’s mother Judi, who died of cancer when he was 12. In addition, Griese is hoping to open a branch of Judi’s House in Colorado Springs, Colo., where more than 1,000 children of military families are currently dealing with the loss of a parent. “I’m hoping we can get some federal funding because there’s a huge need, but you have to go through a lot of hoops,” Griese said. For information on the home: Judishouse.org.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010