Antonio Cromartie rips NFL, union

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- First it was Tom Brady. Now Antonio Cromartie has some choice words for the NFL and the players' union regarding negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement.

"To me, you need to stop bitching about it," the New York Jets cornerback said. "And if you wanna say you're gonna get into a room and meet and greet, and say you're gonna do what you need to do, then do it. Don't just talk about it."

Cromartie is a free agent this season, but rather than begin negotiations with the team, his managerial group is on hold due to the uncertain future of the CBA.

There was little optimism in the Jets' locker room that the union and the NFL would avert a course that seems to be headed for disaster. The CBA will officially expire on March 4 when the owners can opt to lock out the players.

"Especially when you don't get no information about nothing from the union or the owners," Cromartie said. "So to tell you the truth they need to get their damn minds together and get this [expletive] done. Stop bitching about money. Money ain't nothing. Money can be here and gone. Us players, we want to go out and play football. It's something we've been doing and we love it and enjoy it. It's our livelihood."

Jets safety Eric Smith, whose contract will expire this season, wants to return but said the labor uncertainty is weighing on him.

"It definitely does because normally you know, March 3, free agency and then you start talking to teams," Smith said. "But now we'll have no contact if we're locked out. It's kind of a waiting game. You have no idea how long it's going to last."

Kicker Nick Folk packed his cleats and said he would start working out with a target date of August in mind.

"Just in case there is training camp," Folk said.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said the potential lockout will get in the way of coaching the team as it attempts to rebound from a second straight loss in the AFC Championship Game.

"It's some scary times, you know," Ryan said. "As a coach, you want to know, you want to get your guys back as fast as you can. Let's get on to the new season. But it really is uncertain times."

Ryan challenged the players to hold each other accountable in the offseason, checking in to make sure they were working out. Lance Laury said that some of the players were making tentative plans to have group workouts, depending on where they live.

"It's not like we're just now finding out about this," Laury said. "We know what it takes to stay in shape and get ready for a season."

Linebacker Bart Scott pointed out that last spring the Jets had 100 percent attendance for the offseason workouts.

"In this locker room we have a lot of professionals and a professional is not going to let his craft slip," Scott said. "... Just because we don't have a CBA doesn't mean we're going to stop our commitment to ourselves. We know we've been knocking on that door, and were going to keep knocking until we break it open."

But preparations can't formally begin anew until players are signed, and no one was as frank in their criticism of that impasse as Cromartie.

"I mean, that's how I feel," Cromartie said. "Honestly, I don't give a damn if they get mad at me or not, but it's getting to a point where it's getting ridiculous when everything is always dealing with money. You're basically dealing with people's livelihoods. That this is what we do for our careers, and you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of other people that's in this workplace also, from the venues to everyone else.

"... I mean, you've got our head union reps acting like a [expletive]," Cromartie said. "And they've got their guys acting like them [expletive], so they just need to get their [expletive] together and get it done."

Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.