Despite Investigation, Buddy's Humor Bountiful

Posted: November 25, 1989

They are calling him the Ayatollah Buddy and even worse in Dallas, and all James David Ryan does is shrug his shoulders, stick out his tongue and reel off the one-liners.

Those Cowboys can't even draw Ryan into a decent cat fight these days.

Back in the Big D, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson yesterday carted out the game films of the Eagles' 27-0 Thanksgiving Day win that he said backed up his accusations that Ryan put prices on the heads of Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas, whom Ryan released three weeks ago.

Aikman remained healthy, but rookie linebacker Jessie Small flattened Zendejas on the second-half kickoff. Zendejas, who suffered a concussion, after the game threatened to deck Ryan the next time they meet - which just happens to be in two weeks at Veterans Stadium.

NFL spokesman Joe Browne said the league is investigating the incident, and yesterday contacted Johnson. League rules prohibit "bounty provisions" and state that the commissioner has the power to penalize "extraordinarily unfair" actions with "fines, draft-choice forfeitures, and suspensions of persons involved in the unfair acts."

Ryan denied the bounty charge point-blank Thursday after the game. And yesterday was the vaudeville show.

"Be realistic, if you had a bounty out, why in the hell would you put it on a kicker who's been in a six-week slump?" Ryan said at his day-after press conference. "You hope he doesn't get hurt. You want to be sure he kicks. I mean, hell, don't touch him, be careful. That's the way you approach that stuff. That's the reason it's so damn ridiculous, see?

"I've heard that (bounty) stuff ever since I've been in this league . . . Usually those things are associated with teams like the Raiders, the Giants, the Bears and now the Philadelphia Eagles - because we're a hard- hitting, get-after-it football team. That's where all that stuff starts coming up."

Johnson, who said he would have confronted Ryan after the game if Ryan hadn't gotten "his big, fat rear end in the dressing room" so quickly, had said he planned to contact the league office with the bounty charge, but apparently the league called him first and asked for film clips and newspaper accounts.

Has the league contacted you, Buddy?

"No," Ryan scoffed. "Why would they contact me? It's stupid.

"Well, they probably (called Johnson to) shut his mouth off. That's what's it's probably about. You don't go around saying those things."

Pause for comic effect.

"Just like calling me fat," Ryan said in a mock aggrieved, disbelieving voice. "I resent that. I've been on a diet, I lost a couple pounds, and I thought I was looking good.

"And he goes and he calls me fat, and I kind of resent that a little bit."

Ryan, for his part, said that the films the Eagles have of the incident show that Small had no intention of hurting Zendejas.

The Eagles, unlike the Cowboys, did not release their film because they said that it was their understanding that showing film to prove a point is against league policy.

But Ryan said it was clear from viewing the film that Zendejas actually

went after Small - thus drawing an illegal blocking penalty - instead of the other way around.

"Luis tried to take Jessie's knee out," Ryan said. "Jessie looked like he tried to jump over him.

"That's what I don't understand. They say we try to get to Zendejas, and he gets penalized for cutting Jessie.

"I mean, he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

"Then they say that we were after the quarterback (Aikman), and they get penalized for taking a cheap shot (for roughing Randall Cunningham).

"I don't think we had a cheap shot. From the film I saw it was just a good, clean play. We didn't go after him late or anything else.

"So it's ridiculous to me."

The Cowboys' view, you could say, was a little different.

Johnson said that not only did the film show that Small ran past three other Cowboys to get to Zendejas, but that this incident was just one of what he perceived to be a "pattern" of bounty-hunting by the Eagles.

"You don't assign one of your better blockers to go and make a beeline and block the opposing kicker at the 50-yard line on your kickoff return unless you have other intentions," Johnson said yesterday.

On the Cowboys' released tape, it does appear that Small ignores three Cowboys on his path to Zendejas, then slows down when Zendejas ducks in apparent anticipation of Small's hit. Small's knees appear to smack Zendejas in the front of the helmet.

Both the Phoenix Cardinals and Chicago Bears have charged that the Eagles had placed a bounty on one or more of their players. In addition, the Dallas media yesterday reported that there is a rumor circulating around the league that Ryan offered a $1,000 bonus for any player who delivered a solid hit on Bears coach Mike Ditka, an old Ryan nemesis.

"There's only one man who's doing this," Johnson said, "not one team, one man. Buddy Ryan."

The Cowboys contend they received admissions from Eagles special teams coach Al Roberts and players Keith Byars and David Little during conversations with Dallas personnel before and during the game. Johnson has told the league office he will have his players fill out sworn statements if necessary.

Browne said Johnson would probably talk to supervisor of officials Art McNally as part of the investigation.

"As far as I'm concerned, I've heard enough from enough different players that I believe it's true," Johnson said. "If the league wants to investigate and do something, it's in their hands."

But Johnson said he did not hold great hopes for major penalties to be levied against the Eagles.

"I don't see anything happening on this particular incident other than a memorandum to the clubs in the league," Johnson said.

"I want us to play aggressive football. I don't want us to be intimidated. But if we ever resort to going after an opposing player, to injure him and take him out of the game, then I'll get out of coaching. I won't do that."

Meanwhile, Ryan was asked how he responded to Zendejas's heated statements that he would be coming after Ryan physically the next time they're on the field together - specifically in the pregame warmups in two weeks for the Eagles-Cowboys rematch.

"I just hope he's kicking for them when they come here," Ryan said with a big grin. "I don't want him to get hurt."

Ryan, however, did allow that much of the Cowboys' fussilade of venom could be more a result of their 1-11 record than anything he ever did to them.

And when someone asked him if Johnson could just be stoking the bounty charges up to get people's minds off the 27-0 score, Ryan did not disavow that thought.

"Oh, I don't think there's any question," Ryan said. "I've never coached a 1-11 team, but I don't think I'd ever want to, either.

"It'd be tough on you. I mean, you've got to do something, I guess.

"I don't know. I'm sure they're all upset and everything else because of their record more than anything else. Every week you prepare, and every week you get beat, it's tough."

What might be tougher is the meeting two weeks from now, which the Cowboys are publicly and privately saying should be a bloodbath.

One unnamed Cowboy was quoted in yesterday's editions of the Dallas Morning News saying that "somebody (an Eagle) has to go down" in the rematch.

Worried some Cowboy might take cheap shot at Cunningham, Buddy?

"Guys have been taking shots at Randall (for a while)," Ryan said. "What about the one that (Dexter Manley) took in the Washington game (three weeks ago).

"What about (two) years ago when (Redskins tackle Darryl Grant) took a shot at (Cunningham)?

"We pride ourselves on being a tough, physical team, but being the least- penalized team in football. I mean, that's always your goal.

"You can't win if you get penalties. That (roughing) penalty kept a drive alive. You know, football's a tough, physical game, and that's the way it's supposed to be played.

"But you don't take cheap shots at quarterbacks and things like that, I don't think anybody could say we've ever done that."

Ryan did concede that the Eagles - like many teams - award prizes to players.

"We give T-shirts for big plays, like interceptions, big hits that caused fumbles," Ryan said. "They like being recognized in front of their peers, be applauded. It's no big deal."

But he said that the prizes are not the $500 Johnson suggests they are, and that they do not encourage players to hurt people. Ryan said that players try to get the prizes mostly for the recognition from the coaching staff and other players.

Ryan immediately jumped on the point that this war of words with Dallas will do his team good.

"Definitely," Ryan said. "See, I know we're going to have an emotional game in New York (against the NFC East-leading Giants Dec. 3). We've got to, everybody knows what's on the line.

"But then the next week we could be flat. And playing Dallas. But I think Jimmy's probably helped us out there."

Smile. Big smile. Buddy Ryan was in his element once again.

BIRDSEED

The Buddy Ryan standup routine didn't end with his discussion of his rear end, by the way. His comment on his team's on-the-field cockiness: "Well, just like we went out to warm up. And I heard all our guys saying, 'We're baaaaaack. We're baaaaaaack.' What the hell are they talking about? I'm not up to date on this. So apparently there's some movie about ghosts or something ('Poltergeist,' we can only assume). I don't know."

Ryan, on reports that he got into a fistfight with interim Cards head coach Hank Kuhlmann when both were assistants in Chicago: "I don't remember that. Had a fistfight? I don't remember that. We had a few words a lot of times . . . No. He's still coaching, isn't he?" . . . The Eagles' players of the game: wide receiver Cris Carter (offense), cornerback Eric Allen (defense) and linebacker Ricky Shaw (special teams).

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