Problem child Cromartie hurting Jets

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets don't have a chemistry problem -- at least not yet. They have an Antonio Cromartie problem.

Less than two weeks into training camp, Cromartie has emerged as the Bad Boy of Cortland. First, he went on ESPN and bragged about his athleticism, saying he could be the second-best receiver on the team if given the opportunity. That ticked off the receivers, especially Chaz Schilens, whose pointed response sparked a controversy.

Cromartie said he meant no disrespect, but he also didn't try to smooth it over. No regrets, he said.

On Tuesday, Cromartie openly defied Rex Ryan, who ripped into the team after a practice skirmish. Fed up with all the Jet-on-Jet fights, the coach warned the players, telling them to chill out. So what happened?

About 15 minutes later, Cromartie tried to bully rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill. He mugged him at the line of scrimmage, yelled a profanity and, moments later, he took out his frustration on tight end Dustin Keller, decking him on a pass across the field.

Tempers flared again, prompting another rant from Ryan and nearly 10 minutes of gassers.

Cromartie seems intent on singlehandedly wrecking the preseason. Not that he did it on purpose, but he also took out Santonio Holmes in Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage, hitting him in the back on a pass play and causing a rib injury. Cromartie, never known as a big hitter, picked a strange time to get physical.

The Jets need leadership from players like Cromartie, not problems. Terrance Ganaway and Demario Davis, who sparked the first skirmish when they got a little too physical in an offense-defense drill, can be excused for crossing the line. They're rookies.

Cromartie should know better.

Ryan acknowledged that Cromartie was out of line. He didn't drop the hammer on him, but you could tell he was annoyed.

"I thought Cro should've backed off and not hit Dustin," Ryan said. "He's trying to be physical, trying to pick his play up. We always talk about developing habits, but in that situation, it's your teammate and you don't want to do it. I thought Cro was wrong in that situation."

Cromartie is a gifted player and the Jets need him, but Ryan shouldn't let a player's importance dictate accountability. If Cromartie messes up again, Ryan should bench him. He has to take a strong stand here. He can't allow last season's locker-room issues to resurface.

No doubt, Ryan will get criticized for running a loose ship, letting things get out of control in camp, but it's not all his fault. Training-camp fights happen; it's part of football. Most of the principals from the Monday and Tuesday melees weren't even on last season's team.

But now Ryan has to put an end to the nonsense, and that means making sure Cromartie returns to the reservation. If this keeps up, he'll replace Holmes as the poster boy for bad behavior.

What did Cromartie have to say for himself? Nothing. He walked off the field, refusing a PR official's attempt to have him speak with reporters. He kept going, muttering an expletive about the media.

Who does he think we are, Tom Brady?