AFC East: Randall Cunningham

Rex Ryan still simmers over Duerson claim

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
1:57
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Rex Ryan didn't want to dignify the accusation with a reaction.

[+] EnlargeDave Duerson
AP Photo File PhotoThree Notre Dame football players, including Dave Duerson, center, at Jackson Square on Saturday, Dec. 27, 1980, in New Orleans.
The passionate New York Jets head coach couldn't help himself when asked about last month's allegation that his father, Buddy Ryan, called late Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson the N-word.

"Quite honestly ..." Ryan said before stopping himself and then asking a Jets media relations official, "Can I be harsh?"

As long as he kept it clean, Ryan was instructed.

"As long as it's clean, yeah," Ryan muttered. "I thought it was ridiculous."

In a different setting, Ryan probably would have chosen an angrier adjective or two. But in a ballroom at the opulent Roosevent Hotel and surrounded by reporters and his peers Tuesday morning at a coaches' media breakfast, Ryan restrained himself.

"There isn't a prejudiced bone in our bodies or my dad's body," Ryan said, including twin brother and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "That's why I know it's crazy."

The incendiary accusation came to light after Duerson's death. He committed suicide Feb. 17 at his Florida home. Duerson gave an interview to author Rob Trucks in November. Excerpts appeared on Deadspin.com.
"In the NFL, I was ostracized from Day 1 -- not by my teammates, but by my defensive coordinator. I was drafted by the Bears in 1983. My first day walking into Halas Hall, I met Buddy Ryan. He knew I'd gone to Notre Dame and asked me if I was one of those doctors or lawyers. I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'Well, you won't be here too long because I don't like smart n------.'

[+] EnlargeBuddy Ryan
Mike Powell/Getty ImagesBuddy Ryan of the Bears gets carried off the field by defensive lineman Richard Dent, 95, and linebacker Otis Wilson, 55, after their Super Bowl win in 1985.
"I worked for Buddy for three years, and there was not a day that he did not remind me that I was not his draft pick, that he did not want me there. It was not motivational at all. The guy simply hated my guts, without question."

Duerson was among the stars of Buddy Ryan's famed 46 defense. When the clock hit 0:00 on their Super Bowl XX victory here in New Orleans, defensive end Richard Dent and linebacker Otis Wilson -- both black -- hoisted Buddy Ryan on their shoulders.

Many of Buddy Ryan's former players also have publicly defended him against the Duerson accusation.

"I've been around my dad a long time," Rex Ryan said, "and I never heard every conversation he ever had in his life, but I never heard him ever use language like that, a word like that. My dad loves his players, respected his players.

"I thought it was absurd. And there's no way in hell that happened. That's my opinion. No way in hell that happened. For someone to make a comment like that ... and I don't know if Dave made them or somebody else made them or whatever. [Duerson] might have made them, but my dad never did."

Rex Ryan pointed out that his father, in his first head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles, didn't hesitate to start Randall Cunningham. Rob Ryan coached five years at historically black Tennessee State. Both Rex and Rob Ryan were college assistants under black head coaches.

As he rattled off each of those facts, he jabbed his finger on the table for emphasis.

"It was absolutely ridiculous. For my dad, my twin brother, myself ... I mean, give me a break," Rex Ryan said.

"There's no way in hell it's a stain on his career because anybody that knows my dad knows the kind of person he is. My dad is a great person. Maybe there's a different agenda there."

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