INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All Antonio Cromartie really wanted was a chance to play football this season.
Lining up on a playoff contender that was one win away from the Super Bowl two years ago is an added bonus.
Less than 24 hours after the Indianapolis Colts signed the veteran cornerback, Cromartie came back to the Colts’ complex and got right to work like he’d never missed a day.
“I love the irony of it,” Cromartie said Tuesday. “Me and (Darren) Sproles, they called us Colts killers when we were in San Diego together. But I’m glad I’m here now.”
Indianapolis desperately needed someone like Cromartie to fill the void left by a rash of injuries. How much can Indy really expect from a 32-year-old coming off his worst statistical season since 2006? The Colts believe he can fit right in and be a prominent contributor.
Two years ago, Cromartie made the Pro Bowl, then followed Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to New York. The Jets signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. While Cromartie cashed in, the Jets wound up getting just 26 tackles and no interceptions out of their investment.
Naturally, New York cut Cromartie in April.
The former Florida State player spent the next four months getting healthy, working out and waiting for the phone to ring as rumors swirled about a hip injury. When the call finally came last Friday, he flew to Chicago and left a meeting with the Bears without a contract.
Two days later, the Colts were on the phone and Cromartie got to Indy as fast as he could.
“The time off gave me extra time to train and get myself in shape,” he said. “So when the call came, I said, ‘Come on, let’s go.'”
Now comes the hard part: getting Cromartie up to speed. Indy doesn’t have time to waste.
Two-time Pro Bowler Vontae Davis sprained his ankle in practice last week and is now listed as week to week — terminology that normally means he could be out a month. The Colts’ other starter, Patrick Robinson, left Saturday night’s game early with an injured groin and is considered day to day.
Robinson’s backup, Jalil Brown, also sat out Saturday with an injured ankle, and another backup, D’Joun Smith, was limited to 15 snaps last weekend as he continues recovering from knee surgery.
Veteran Darius Butler would likely move into the starting lineup this weekend against Philadelphia if he can overcome a hamstring injury. If not, the Colts have six more cornerbacks who have appeared in a total of two NFL games.
“It’s not pretty,” coach Chuck Pagano said before Cromartie signed. “It’s a little scary right now.”
The addition of Cromartie might make the depth chart look more palatable. In 10 seasons, he started 133 games, has 364 career tackles and 31 interceptions — No. 3 among all active players — including three when Peyton Manning was playing in Indy.
Injuries aren’t just a secondary problem for the Colts, either.
Starting defensive end Kendall Langford has not returned after having arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee earlier this month. Defensive tackle Art Jones can’t play until October because of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing substances policy.
Inside linebacker Sio Moore is out with a hamstring injury and outside linebacker Robert Mathis has not been on the field for either of the Colts’ first two games after “tweaking” a knee during training camp.
But with Cromartie signed and on the practice field, Pagano sounded a little more relieved.
“He (Cromartie) had a great workout,” Pagano said. “He is familiar with the terminology. He’s been in a similar system playing for Rex (Ryan) in New York, basically the same system. He started cramming last night once he got signed and got in the playbook.”