Former Colts rival Antonio Cromartie now on board
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – And riding to the aid of the Indianapolis Colts?
Would you believe a long-time Colts killer?
Welcome aboard, Antonio Cromartie.
Yes, that Antonio Cromartie.
The guy who accounted for half of the career-high six interceptions Peyton Manning suffered in a 23-21 Colts loss to the Chargers in San Diego during the 2007 regular season.
“Yeah, that’s been mentioned a lot around here already,’’ Cromartie said with a smile Tuesday, a day after signing a one-year, $3 million contract that includes another $500,000 in incentives.
The guy who essentially spoiled Manning’s last game in a Colts uniform, a 17-16 loss to the New York Jets in a 2010 wild-card playoff game. After Adam Vinatieri’s 50-yard field goal gave the Colts a 16-14 lead with 53 seconds to play, Cromartie returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Jets’ 47. Five plays later, Nick Folk’s 32-yard field goal as time expired stunned the Colts.
“Yeah, 2010. I know about that one,’’ Cromartie said.
And the guy who helped welcome Manning’s replacement, Andrew Luck, into the NFL. In Luck’s fifth start as a rookie in 2012, Cromartie’s interception contributed to a 35-9 Jets’ blowout.
“Yeah, I got Luck his rookie year, too,’’ he said. “But that was his rookie year. Last year when we played them in the second game of the year he threw a little jerk route on me and got me on that route. I think we’re about even right now.’’
Cromartie admitted he loved the irony of transforming from Colts killer to Colts cornerback.
“Me and (Darren) Sproles (were) called the Colts killers throughout our years being in San Diego,’’ he said. “Now you look at it and I’m here.
“I love the opportunity that we have.’’
The opportunity presented itself after Vontae Davis, the Colts’ two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, suffered a medial sprain to his right ankle in practice last week. He might miss the first month of the regular season.
Cromartie went through a workout for the Chicago Bears Friday, then got a call from the Colts Sunday. They put him through a workout Monday and signed him later in the day.
“When I got the call I was like, ‘Sure, let’s go. I’m ready for it,’’’ Cromartie said. “This was another opportunity to show that I am healthy and come out and come play. I ended up signing here and I’m excited about it.’’
It’s uncertain if Cromartie will play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he most assuredly plans on being in the lineup for the Sept. 11 opener against Detroit.
“That’s what, about 19, 20 days?’’ he said. “I’ll be ready for that. There’s no question about that.’’
Cromartie, 32, dismissed a report he had been contemplating retirement after being released by the Jets.
“That’s just all rumors,’’ he said. “I wasn’t looking forward to retirement because I felt I still had a lot left.’’
He started 15 games for the Jets in ‘15, and admitted “I didn’t have a great season last year. Most of it was due to injury. I had a groin.’’
Missing all of the offseason work and early portion of the preseason, Cromartie added, “gave me time for my body to heal properly.’’
The Colts need for Cromartie to step in and at least resemble the player that started 133 of 158 career games since being selected by the Chargers with the 19th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He’s a four-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks third among active corners with 31 interceptions.
“Long, athletic, fast, (has) ball skills, intelligent, smart, knows the game as well as anybody I’ve been around,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said.
No go for Mathis:
Pagano essentially shut down Robert Mathis’ preseason before it began. The team’s career sack leader won’t play Saturday against Philadelphia or in the preseason finale at Cincinnati.
The team had been coy with Mathis’ availability the past two weeks, but that ended Tuesday.
“You don’t need to see him play. I don’t need to see him play. Nobody in this room needs to be Robert play,’’ Pagano said. “He has not forgotten how to play football and how to rush passer and set edges. He’ll be fine.’’
Pagano recently mentioned Mathis tweaked a knee, but he insisted an injury has nothing to do with the decision to hold him out of the final two preseason games.
“He’s 35,’’ Pagano said. “A lot of wear and tear on a 35-year-old body that plays like that, so you’ve got to be smart.
“That would be foolish on my part to do something egregious when a guy doesn’t have to (play).’’
Tolzien the backup:
For those confused, there isn’t an open competition for the backup quarterback spot.
“Scott Tolzien is our backup quarterback and Stephen (Morris) is the number three right now,’’ Pagano said.
That comment was in stark contrast to a week ago when Pagano indicated Tolzien and Morris were battling for the No. 2 spot.
“Everybody is competing at this point,’’ he said at the time. “Nothing is given to Scott and we haven’t told Stephen that he is the third.’’