Cowboys owner fired Rob Ryan, but still impressed by him

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Owner Jerry Jones claims he respects New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but in explaining why he fired Ryan in January, Jones said the Dallas Cowboys wanted a less aggressive defense.

“I’ve been real impressed with how well their defense is playing,” Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM. “It doesn’t surprise me. I think so highly of Rob Ryan as a coach, frankly, as an imaginative coach and how he imaginatively approaches the game. He can have a lot going on, and we wanted less going on, but that doesn’t make it right or wrong.

“He’s basically implemented it and executed it the way he wants to do it down there, and they’re going to give us fits Sunday.”

In Ryan’s second season as defensive coordinator, the Cowboys last year set a team record for most yards allowed in a season and had only 16 takeaways.

Dallas is on pace to give up even more yards this season, though they have 21 takeaways in nine games.

The Saints gave up the most yards in NFL history last season, prompting them to hire Ryan. He has them ranked ninth overall, and they have 15 takeaways.

Ryan told reporters in New Orleans on Friday that he is unsure why he was fired in Dallas.

“Hey, I have read so many things, I don’t care to read them anymore,” Ryan said. “Whatever it was, I’m sure it was a great decision on everybody’s part.”

Ryan insists his time in Dallas was a success.

“Whatever people suggest, it doesn’t mean [anything] to me,” Ryan said. “I know I’m a great coach. Whatever it is, it is. What I said in Dallas on my way out, there’s a couple of better coaches than me who have been fired. Not many, but there is a couple. That’s just the way it is.”

Bryant’s bad back

Dez Bryant promises he’s playing Sunday, and the Cowboys insist they have no long-term concerns about the wide receiver’s back.

“I’m fine, and I’m playing,” Bryant said Friday. “That’s all y’all need to know.”

Bryant missed practice Wednesday. He was limited Thursday and Friday, but the Cowboys list him as probable for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

The fourth-year receiver underwent an MRI test earlier this week, but it showed no skeletal issues. Bryant’s back problem, executive vice president Stephen Jones said, is muscle-related, not disk-related.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Jones said.

Bryant, 25, has experienced tightness and spasms several times in his career, including the season finale against the Washington Redskins last season. Bryant was forced out of the game by back spasms and left FedEx Field in a wheelchair.

But Bryant has never missed a game because of his back.

He sat out the final four games in his rookie season of 2010 with a fractured right ankle, and he missed one game in 2011 with a bruised quadriceps.

“We don’t seem to have any long-term concern about [Bryant’s back] at all,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re just trying to address an issue. If you look in our locker room and locker rooms all over the league, guys are nicked up this time of year, and you’ve got to do your best as a medical staff to get them healthy, get them out on the practice field and get ready to play on Sunday.”

Bryant is the team’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 705 yards and eight touchdowns.

Hatcher questionable

The Cowboys will have defensive end DeMarcus Ware (thigh) back in the starting lineup after a three-game absence, and defensive end George Selvie (shoulder) and defensive tackle Nick Hayden (ribs) are probable.

But the Cowboys could be without defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who is questionable with a stinger.

Hatcher will be a game-time decision, undergoing acupuncture, muscle stimulation and a massage in an attempt to restore the strength in his left arm.

Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) is doubtful.

The Cowboys have ruled out cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring), linebacker DeVonte Holloman (neck) and safety J.J. Wilcox (knee). Claiborne and Wilcox are starters.

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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