No cupcake here: Fiery Rob Ryan ready to attack

SAN ANTONIO -- If you think the difference at head coach between Jason Garrett and Wade Phillips is stark, then how about the difference at defensive coordinator?

Cowboys defenders used to Camp Cupcake, featuring hand claps and attaboys all around, are getting a crash course in the salty, profane and combative style of new coordinator Rob Ryan.

And that's just on the field.

It's even worse in the meeting rooms, where the long-haired Ryan looks like a member of the infamous motorcycle gang Hells Angels and talks like one, too.

"The four-letter words come fast and they come in a very creative way," linebacker Bradie James said. "I have a little one, so I watch what I say. I have to put my ear plugs on. But it's interesting. I will be honest with you -- you don't know if a person is really like that or they are putting on. He is consistent and he knows what he is talking about. Right now it's a crash course."

Considering Ryan has had no real contact with the players since he was hired to replace Phillips as defensive coordinator because of the lockout, he has not had a chance to get know the players.

But make no mistake about it, the group making the biggest adjustment is the players.

They have to get used to Ryan's fiery personality -- he is the son of former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan and the brother of cocky New York Jets coach Rex Ryan -- and his aggressive style of football.

While Phillips normally only rushed a linebacker or two and schemes grew stale and predictable, Ryan prefers football on a high wire. He will attack the quarterback from every direction as he did the first day of training camp with a plethora of cornerback blitzes.

Ryan said he's not easing anything in.

"Yeah, this is for real," Ryan said. "It's not like its OTAs or whatever. This is training camp. We're going to put our training camp defense in, which is our regular defense. Pretty soon we're going to have to face live bullets and win."

NFL sack champion DeMarcus Ware chuckled when asked about covering receiver Kevin Ogletree after a zone blitz.

"Whatever I can do to help the team, I'll do it," Ware said. "But the covering part, you've just got to roll with the punches. But I like the new scheme. The multiplicity of this defense, guys are coming from everywhere. From base all the way to blitzing downs. That's what it takes and that's what type of defense it is."

James said the scheme is complex and challenging, but it also has him chomping at the bit to get on the practice field like one of the rookies.

"The week is so exciting, but right now I feel like I'm a rookie again," James said. "I have three different playbooks. I'm carrying a luggage bag around. You won't be able to know what defense we're in. We had gotten to that point where people were just knowing what was going on. Now it's very interesting."

While Ryan seems like a wild card, his scheme is sound and he believes in teaching the fundamentals the right way. He just has to do it at a break-neck pace.

To that end, the Cowboys are working the first- and second-team units at the same time. Ryan and secondary coach Dave Campo work with the first team on one end, and linebackers coach Matt Eberflus leads the other coaches in working with the second team.

"It helps the players learn faster because you get twice as many reps that way," Ryan said. "The biggest thing is, it comes down on the coaches that you have. I think I have the best staff in football on defense, so we'll utilize them so we don't just have one guy standing around like he knows what he's doing."

Of course, it's hard to miss that one guy with the long, blond hair and profanity-laced words of motivation.

He's certainly no cupcake.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


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