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After WR drills, Jets Cromartie hopes to play offence as well

Associated Press

8/13/2012 3:37:38 PM

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- All the begging might finally be paying off for Antonio Cromartie.

The speedy and athletic cornerback has been lobbying Rex Ryan to let him play at wide receiver, and he might get that opportunity this season with the New York Jets.

Cromartie participated in individual drills with the receivers for the first time during practice Monday, running routes and catching passes as coaches watched him.

"It felt good," Cromartie said. "At this point, I'm just learning the steps and trying to learn more about the position, running routes. I felt pretty good today about catching the ball, too."

He made waves early in training camp when he said he would rank himself as the team's second-best wide receiver behind Santonio Holmes. The Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) are dealing with a number of injuries at the position, including to Holmes, so Cromartie getting time on offence and defence in a game might not be such a long shot anymore.

"I'm definitely hoping," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. I've been waiting for the opportunity to try to play both ways in the NFL for a while."

Actually, Cromartie said he has been asking to do it since his rookie season with the San Diego Chargers in 2006.

"It's fun," Cromartie said. "It's an opportunity to get the ball in your hands and another challenge. I'm looking at going out and playing receiver as a challenge for me."

After defending NFL wide receivers for the first six seasons of his career, becoming one -- at least part-time -- is an intriguing idea for Cromartie.

"We'll see how excited he is when he gets smacked by a safety," a joking Ryan said.

Cromartie played both ways in high school in Tallahassee, Fla., and was slated to play some at wide receiver during his junior year at Florida State. But he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the off-season and missed that season. Still, he was drafted in the first round by the Chargers.

Cromartie has flashed tremendous playmaking ability on defence and as a kick returner on special teams. Next up: wide receiver. And there's one major reason, in his mind, that he'll get that shot this season.

"Uh, because we got a different co-ordinator," Cromartie said. "Plus, I bugged Rex every opportunity to put me on offence, so I finally get my chance. I got a couple plays last year, but this year, I'll actually get a chance to play a little more receiver."

Brian Schottenheimer, replaced by Tony Sparano, actually used Cromartie at wide receiver for five snaps last year, but his work at the position wasn't extensive. Cromartie has talked to Holmes about playing wide receiver, trying to learn the nuances of the position and getting any tips he can.

"Any help I can get right now is going to be big," Cromartie said, "and I'm going to try to add it to my game."