Cowboys' Ryan prepares for reunion vs. Browns

Sunday, November 18, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn't pretend to ignore that the Cowboys are playing Cleveland for the first since the Browns dumped him when they fired Eric Mangini two years ago.

Even when he's pretending.

"Honestly, I'm going to say no," Ryan said when asked if he had discussed this week's personal motivation with his players. "Honestly, I haven't talked about it. Honestly, I don't know how that got out there."

How about dishonestly?

"I've addressed a few things," said Ryan, the twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan says Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium is personal for a pretty simple reason. He didn't think two years was enough to try to turn a franchise that has now missed the playoffs nine straight years and reached the postseason just twice since 1990.

To him, it doesn't really matter that Cleveland's ownership and front office changed in midseason, and that more changes are likely in the offseason

"Anytime you pour everything you have into it and apparently management didn't see it as it was good enough, of course it's personal," Ryan said.

Ryan's animosity doesn't extend to his former players, though. He sounds like he wouldn't mind having some of them still on his side, particularly defensive backs T.J. Ward, Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden in a secondary that has Cleveland ranked sixth in the league with 10 interceptions.

"These are some of the best people I ever coached, so I still love those guys," Ryan said. "But I plan on beating them."

Ryan's first year in Dallas after the Cleveland firing was a little rough. The Cowboys had one of the worst pass defenses in franchise history and rarely made big plays when they needed them late in the year. Two late-season losses to the New York Giants essentially kept Dallas out of the playoffs, and the Cowboys didn't sack Eli Manning once in 47 pass attempts in the first game.

That's not exactly what Dallas had in mind when Ryan brought an attacking style to go with his boisterous and demonstrative sideline behavior, but this year has been better.

The Cowboys harassed Manning and held him to 190 passing yards despite losing 29-24 in the first game after defensive leader Sean Lee was lost to a season-ending toe injury. Dallas held Atlanta, unbeaten at the time, to 19 points in another close loss before the defense scored twice in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Philadelphia.

"We've been playing pretty well the last few weeks," Ryan said. "I think we're hitting it at the right time. I think our guys are starting to go after it."

Ryan has cut his hair and the size of his waistline since he was in Cleveland, but the Browns will probably be able to recognize him.

"He was a hoot," Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. "He's really funny and he's a great defensive coordinator."

Ryan will be out to prove it Sunday.

Broncos

Linebacker D.J. Williams is on track to make his 2012 debut today against San Diego after Denver put him on its 53-man roster Saturday.

Williams returned to practice this week after serving two NFL-mandated suspensions that cost him nine games and about $4 million.

Williams was suspended six games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and three games for an alcohol-related arrest. The Broncos had a roster exemption for Williams but already had a spot open after waiving safety Duke Ihenacho on Tuesday.

Eagles

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid on Friday officially ruled quarterback Michael Vick out of today's game against Washington and named rookie Nick Foles the starter.

Vick sustained a concussion in the Eagles' 38-23 loss against Dallas last Sunday.

Foles was 22 of 32 for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Cowboys.

Ditka stroke

Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has had a minor stroke, an ESPN producer said.

ESPN's Seth Markman posted on Twitter that the former Chicago Bears coach and player fell ill Friday and will not appear on the network's NFL shows this weekend.

Markman wrote that Ditka "wanted everyone to know he's ok."

The 73-year-old Ditka had a heart attack during the 1988 season when he was coaching the Bears.

The stroke came on the same day that a Lake County prosecutor said in court that Ditka's son, Mark E. Ditka, tested positive for opiates during a pretrial screening earlier this month, according to the Tribune. The younger Ditka is awaiting trial on his fourth DUI charge.

Fines levied

Jacksonville defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali and New England LB Brandon Spikes were fined $25,000 each by the NFL on Friday for hits in recent games.

* Knighton was fined for making helmet-to-helmet contact with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was defenseless at the time. The hit came in Indianapolis' victory Nov. 8 at Jacksonville and negated an interception by Aaron Ross.

* Hali was docked for striking Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich with his helmet.

* Spikes got a roughing-the-passer penalty on Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick that drew the fine. He hit Fitzpatrick with his helmet. The players later jawed at each other and after the Patriots' win, Fitzpatrick called Spikes "a punk."

* In all, 17 players drew fines Friday for their actions in Week 10 games.

Referee fined

Referee Tony Corrente has been fined one game check by the NFL for uttering some obscenities with his microphone on during a Nov. 4 game in Indianapolis between the Colts and Miami Dolphins.

A referee of Corrente's experience -- 18 seasons -- earns approximately $9,000 a game.

In the fourth quarter of the game, Corrente inadvertently left his microphone open during a conference with members of the officiating crew. During that conference, Corrente used obscenities that were heard by the crowd and the CBS television audience.

Corrente has apologized to the Colts organization.

-- From wire reports

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