(AP) — After leading the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC championship game appearances, Rex Ryan says he’s more anxious about this season’s opener than those games.
And it’s not because his brother, Rob Ryan, will be making his debut as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator on the opposing sideline.
The Jets and Cowboys meet Sunday night at the newly renamed MetLife Stadium in what figures to be an emotionally charged atmosphere on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
This marquee matchup between sibling rivals will have father Buddy Ryan in attendance, even though it was revealed this week that the elder Ryan has a form of cancer.
It would normally figure that the outspoken twin brothers would be exchanging some good-natured trash talk. The timing of this game taking place in the New York area on such a significant date has Rex Ryan thinking other thoughts.
“Usually, it’s like I go against my brother and all that and you have a lot of fun with that, but obviously I feel it’s different, like a responsibility,” Rex Ryan said. “The significance of it, I think it’s stronger than any game I’ve ever felt. I feel more pressure on this game for whatever reason than any game I’ve ever coached, it seems like.”
Each fan will receive an American flag upon entering the stadium, and children of first responders will serve as honorary team captains.
Rex Ryan’s Jets won 26-20 in overtime last year when Rob Ryan was a coordinator for Cleveland. Rob Ryan is confident he can turn things around for Dallas, which allowed the second-most points in the NFL in 2010.
“I’ve been an assistant coach of the year in pro football and in college football, so apparently I’m pretty good,” said Rob Ryan, who has retained the 3-4 defense the Cowboys used in 2010. “No one else believes it, but they all will after this game.”
While a Jets’ defense that ranked third overall last season has been the team’s calling card under Rex Ryan, the offense figures to be more dynamic. Mark Sanchez will begin his third season as the starter, and he has a major new weapon in Plaxico Burress.
Burress will play in an NFL game for the first time since Nov. 23, 2008, with the Giants. Five days later, the infamous incident took place in which Burress shot himself in the thigh in a New York nightclub. The subsequent gun charge led to Burress spending 20 months in prison.
“You can’t ask for a better stage,” Burress said. “Especially with everything going on with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and playing ‘America’s Team,’ the Cowboys. It’s the first Sunday night game of the year. We’re playing them here. Great organization, great stadium. You just can’t set a better stage for the things that we want to accomplish as a team.”
While Burress comes back after being away from the game a long time, Tony Romo returns for his first action since breaking his left clavicle in the Cowboys’ sixth game last season against the Giants.
There are fewer question marks about Romo than about a Dallas offensive line that features three new blockers.
“These guys have done a good job coming together,” Romo said. “They’re starting to jell. They just have to go out and play, do what they’ve been coached to do. I think we’ve got a good group of guys. Guys are going to work hard and give it their all out there, and that’s all that you can ask.”
How good Romo’s protection is will help determine whether he can spread the ball around to Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and Miles Austin as well as explosive second-year receiver Dez Bryant.
“Start with the tight end (Witten), he caught almost 100 balls or something last year, a big, fast guy, a complete tight end,” Rex Ryan said. “And then you have Dez Bryant, the young kid from here (Austin) – they’re loaded.”
Jason Garrett begins his first full season as coach after guiding Dallas to a 5-3 mark when he took over for Wade Phillips midway through last year’s 6-10 campaign.
“When you’re zero wins and zero losses with the whole season in front of you,” Garrett said, “I think you are hopeful.”
Garrett’s counterpart is clearly more than hopeful.
“I know it’s football and we’re not talking about life or death or anything like that,” Rex Ryan said. “I don’t know, that’s kind of how I’m taking it. It’s my job. My job is to get this team ready to go, and we will.”
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
The Dallas Cowboys have overtaken the New York Yankees as America’s most valuable sports franchise.
Forbes released its annual valuation list of NFL franchises, and the Cowboys check in with a worth of $1.85 billion, $150 million more than the Yankees.
Globally, only English soccer club Manchester United ($1.9 billion) surpasses Dallas, which generated an NFL-high $406 million in revenue last year.
The average value of an NFL club now stands at $1.036 billion.
Rounding out the NFL’s top five on Forbes‘ list were the Redskins ($1.56B), Patriots ($1.4B), Giants ($1.3B) and Jets ($1.22B). The bottom five were the Jaguars ($725 million), Raiders ($761M), Rams ($775M), Bills ($792M) and Vikings ($796M).
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan recently said that it’s “not recommended” for fans to be wearing “Cowboys stuff” to Sunday Night’s game at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
However, those comments didn’t mean that Ryan was advocating the use of violence against any fan wearing apparel that supported the visitors.
“If it was taken that way, it certainly wasn’t my intention to be taken that way,” Ryan clarified to the New York Daily News on Thursday. “I certainly didn’t mean it to come out like that if that’s the way it was taken. I’m serious about it. I think that our guys should be… our stadium doesn’t need to have visiting color jerseys. I want to have our stadium filled. If it’s somebody else come to enjoy the game, that’s fine. I’m not calling for our guys to do anything. The safety of every fan is important to everybody in this organization, including me. But would I prefer not to see another team’s jersey? Absolutely. I would to see our stadium just in our colors.”
He added: “We have such a fanbase now that these tickets ought to be hard to get and Jet fans aren’t going to give their tickets to the Cowboy fans. I don’t see our fans doing that.”
The NFL has reportedly increased focus on preventing violence at games. Following a game in San Francisco between the 49ers and Oakland Raiders on Aug. 20, two men were shot in a parking lot outside the stadium. Numerous fights also occurred inside the stadium, including one that left a man unconscious.
Even with the injury to Tyron Smith, Jerry Jones said he is excited about the season because of the Cowboys’ remade offensive line.
“I think we’ve given ourselves a better chance to have the running game we want to have,” he said. “These guys are mobile, can do some things for us, backside cutoffs, frankly, just mobility and cutting off linebackers that really help the running game.”
Jones said the Cowboys had more experience, particularly in pass protection with their former starters, and that’s one reason they signed veteran guard Derrick Dockery.
“We’ll get better there as we go, and I’m comfortable with what you see as the lineup,” he said. “We brought in a veteran player to make sure in case for any reason got to feeling wild in the middle, then we had some base in there, and we some anchor in there. So that’s why we brought in Dockery.”
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has never faced off against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis, who most people acknowledge as the best cornerback in the NFL.
But Bryant knows what he’s like.
“He’s physical,” he said. “That’s how you play the game, being physical, all days. Much respect for him. When you go against him, you have to be on top of your game.”
Bryant wants to be sharp in his routes, because he’s already been told about the consequences.
“You got to know what you’re doing because if you make a mistake, there’s no telling – he might jump in front of it, pick it off. He’s going to make a great play on you.”
Bryant is a physical receiver. Will it be fire vs. fire?
“Hey, call it what you want,” he said, smiling.
But even if Bryant goes to the other side, another top cornerback is waiting – Antonio Cromartie.
“He also is a great cornerback,” Bryant said. “He’s got size – 6-2 – can run, can cover. Against these guys, you’ve got to make a play on them. Like I said, you’ve got to come with your ‘A’ game when you face a defense like this.”
Mike Jenkins practiced Thursday, and said the knee injury he suffered in practice on Wednesday is behind him.
“I’m good,” he said. “It’s football. An injury. I got it checked out. I’m ready to move on. I’m good to go.”
If Jenkins is healthy and can play on Sunday, it would give the Cowboys four cornerbacks instead of three to go against the New York Jets.
“He did pretty good today, so I feel pretty good about it,” secondary coach Dave Campo said. “We’ll see what happens. But we could be at full strength.”
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Tyron Smith and Mike Jenkins were at practice Thursday, but Smith did not work.
Smith, the Cowboys’ starting right tackle, was dressed and had his knee wrapped, but he didn’t have his helmet. He watched the position drills during the first part of practice. Smith suffered a hyperextended right knee in practice on Wednesday. The Cowboys are awaiting results from an MRI exam.
Jenkins, who left practice on Wednesday with a knee injury, dressed and moved around well in his warm-ups. No wrap or brace was visible on his knee.
ESPN will remain the home of Monday Night Football for at least another decade.
SportsBusinessDaily.com reports,The NFL and ESPN have reached a new deal to keep Monday night games on ESPN through the 2021 season.
The new contract will pay the NFL $1.8 billion a year, a 63 percent increase from the current deal. With 17 Monday night games a year, that works out to more than $105 million a game.
ESPN (and its network partner ABC) still will be kept out of the Super Bowl rotation on the new contract, although ESPN might get a wild-card playoff game at some point in the future. ESPN does get the rights to more highlights, which it will use to launch more highlight-themed studio shows. ESPN also gets the right to stream live games online.
It’s an enormous deal for ESPN, but it’s even bigger for the NFL, which was able to survive the lockout and show once again that it’s the single most valuable property in all of American television.