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Antonio Cromartie's first year with the New York Jets was never dull.
He hit the ground running with his struggle to remember the names of his children on "Hard Knocks," played a little football and then reached new heights by calling Tom Brady an a-hole during the run-up to the playoff game against the Patriots. That's nothing compared to how he's spent the first week of his offseason. Cromartie was asked about the seemingly inevitable work stoppage that looms just around the corner.
"Especially when you don't get no information about nothing from the union or the owners," Cromartie said Monday. "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."
These comments infuriated other football players, which we'll get to in a moment, but they also seriously upset many fans. Just check out the comments section of any Pro Football Talk post about the issue and you'll see people ripping Cromartie apart. That's really odd, because you'd think that fans wouldn't much care about any issue other than the fact that the NFL owners are trying to take away football next season.
Does anyone really care about the percentage of revenues paid to players or the need for owners to service the debt on stadiums built with the help of public funds? Both sides say they want an agreement, yet they refuse to meet and seriously talk about coming to terms or simply letting the status quo continue to make everyone rich. There is no reason for this work stoppage outside of simple greed. That's all Cromartie is saying, which makes it hard to understand the animosity from those who have been espousing the same belief for some time.
The players have more of a case. Darnell Dockett and Ray Lewis both criticized Cromartie -- Matt Hasselbeck did too, but tried to erase it after sending it out on the internet which makes him a fairly cowardly luddite -- and their issue has to do with presenting a united front as they enter labor negotiations. Every non-baseball sports labor battle has ended with the players losing because they could not stay together in the face of lost paychecks. Cromartie's comments hit at that fault line that the owners and Roger Goodell are counting on when they take their absurdly hard line about keeping a bigger piece of the pie for themselves even though they put themselves at no risk of bodily harm.
Here's the thing, though: The players should be making it very clear that there's no reason to make a change. There are some problems with the way the league takes care of player health and the rookie salary structure is totally out of whack (although that is entirely the doing of ownership), but the golden goose keeps laying eggs that fill the bellies of everyone involved. The players don't need this fight, so they should be unified in their attempt to make the owners look like the greedy men who overextended themselves that they are instead of fighting with one another when someone expresses a desire to play football.
Cromartie's not the enemy of fans or player, in other words, because he isn't the one who has decided that it is okay to take the NFL away next year.