IRVING, Texas – Rob Ryan can get emotional, and Sean Lee's injury could cause one to cry, but the Cowboys' defensive coordinator said that's not what happened when he called his brother earlier this week.
Ryan cleared up some comments the Jets' head coach stated in an interview earlier this week that the loss of Lee had Ryan in tears on the phone.
"He did talk me off the plank, but football hardens you," Ryan said. "Injuries are part of it. You know that. I know that. It's the worst part of the game. But I wasn't crying actual tears. I save that for the movies I watch with my wife. Lifetime. You guys ever watch Lifetime? Jeez. Don't. Trust me."
While Ryan may not have literally shed tears from losing his linebacker, he admitted the lack of his playmaker in the middle might be worth crying over.
"I probably should have cried," Ryan said. "But we're doing a good job. Sean's always around. As classy as a person he is, he's out here every day helping. The guy's phenomenal. The thing that kills you in this business is you see a guy work that hard, makes himself great, makes everybody else around him great, it is devastating when you see somebody like that leave and get injured."
This specific injury might hurt worse than the rest, but the Cowboys have lost starters before this season. Safety Barry Church's ruptured Achilles took him out for the year, while Jay Ratliff missed the entire start to the year with a high ankle sprain and Anthony Spencer's pectoral injury kept him out two weeks.
"This is just another spot to prove that we want to be an elite defense," Ryan said. "We lost a great player in Barry Church, a guy who's going to be a start in this league. We have to overcome those injuries. We've had Jay gone, we've had Spencer gone. We just have to pick it up."
Linebacker Bruce Carter is now making the calls and checks on defense. Ryan said he might start slowly and let Carter adjust to his new role in place of whom Ryan referred to as the best middle linebacker in football. He said he also might use more of a 4-3 look to make up for Lee's loss.
"It's hard to replace the voice of your defense, the signal caller of the defense," Ryan said. "If people don't think that's a big deal …. It's a big deal. We're going to be smart about it. We've added some good players."
Those players would be safety Charlie Peprah and linebacker Ernie Sims. Ryan said he'll find a way to get Sims, a player he wanted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, on the field this weekend. Sims and linebacker Dan Connor will share the duty of replacing Lee.
Meanwhile, another linebacker, DeMarcus Ware, hasn't practiced this week because of an illness. Ryan said he expects Ware and cornerback Mike Jenkins, who didn't play much against Carolina, to both be involved this weekend.
"We've always been smart with DeMarcus," Ryan said. "He's been battling that hamstring all year and all this other stuff, now the illness. But there's only one DeMarcus Ware, and he'll be out there on Sunday. So does he need all the work? I'm going to say no."
The Cowboys defense will go without Lee for the first time this year, but Ryan knows that's not an excuse to come up short against a Giants defense they held to 17 points in the opener. He kept his usual sense of humor when describing the lack of credit given to his defense in that performance.
"I understand we played the Giants before, and the only reason we stopped them is because of their lack of execution," Ryan said. "It had nothing to do with our players or our scheme, and I understand that. That's been well documented that was said. They give a lot of credit where credit's due, and it's just because of their lack of execution. We got the message. We understand that. So that'll be great. We're looking forward to that challenge."