Cromartie has a fine first workday


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Jan 22, 2006
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Cromartie has a fine first workday

By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- The ball had yet to kiss the turf, and coach Marty Schottenheimer was already ribbing top-pick Antonio Cromartie.

"They said you could catch when we drafted you,'' Schottenheimer roared, after it slipped through Cromartie's hands.

Jokes aside, Cromartie showed the Chargers he means business on the next drill during rookie orientation workouts Saturday. He smoothly sliced in front of Sean Coffey for an interception, but the buzz didn't last long after Cromartie flipped the ball to receivers coach James Lofton.

"That's $50,'' Lofton said.

Chargers are fined in practice if they hand the ball to someone other than a referee. But with no zebras roaming the practice fields, Cromartie probably won't get dinged.

Or maybe he will.

"He's got plenty,'' Lofton said.

Added Schottenheimer: "He can probably afford it at some point.''

The Chargers don't have the same luxury. If the Chargers' brass fails once more in its quest to unearth a dynamite cornerback, the secondary might again be the team's Achilles' heel.

During former general manager John Butler's tenure, Quentin Jammer was advertised as a shutdown corner and selected fifth overall in 2002. He has been decent, but his total of two interceptions in his past 36 games doesn't cause defensive coordinators sleepless nights.

Current general manager A.J. Smith drafted two corners the following year. But Sammy Davis was a first-round stinker and has since been traded. Drayton Florence, a second-round selection, showed early promise. But the Chargers felt such a need to upgrade they reached for Cromartie with the 19th overall pick.

That's why most eyes were on the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Cromartie on Saturday, especially after a knee injury kicked away his final college season at Florida State.

His torn ACL didn't scare off the Chargers. And Cromartie was scary-good during parts of Saturday's practices.

"I thought, for the most part, he did a nice job,'' Schottenheimer said.

Cromartie's rebuilt knee held up during drills, and he looks primed to pick up where he left off: an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer in 2004.

"It feels good being back in the groove and not having a knee brace and everything,'' Cromartie said. "I haven't done anything in a long time, so being the first day, I felt really good. The knee is doing what it's supposed to do.''

Now it's time for Schottenheimer and position coach Brian Stewart to do their thing: fine-tune a cornerback with loads of potential but little experience after going a year minus pads.

"It'll take some time,'' Schottenheimer said. "I believe that the technique and fundamentals of that position are paramount in any success that a guy is going to have because you are out there on an island. They throw the ball before the receiver comes out of the break. You are playing against guys with great speed.

"I've always believed that was the one position in this business that if you are not sound techniquewise and fundamentalwise, they will just toast you.''

So the Chargers don't expect Cromartie to break fast. But Cromartie is hungry to devour whatever the Chargers plop on his plate.

And his knee ---- which once went snap, crackle, pop?

"I'm not worried about it,'' he said. "I don't think about it when I'm out in the field. I know it's going to hold up, so I'm going to go 100 percent on everything I do.''

His first paycheck may be a tad short of that percentage if the $50 fine sticks. Although, it might be among the less-expensive NFL lessons Cromartie absorbs.

CHARGERS NOTES ---- The rookies work twice again today at Chargers Park, with the veterans arriving for Monday's single session. The mending veterans who won't practice Monday are LT Roman Oben (foot), S Bhawoh Jue (knee, shoulder) and DT Jamal Williams (knee). ... CB Kwesi Williams, here on a tryout basis, is Jamal Williams' brother. ... QB Charlie Whitehurst, a third-round pick, received praise from coach Marty Schottenheimer.
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