Buddy Ryan, left, with son Rex.

Buddy Ryan, left, with son Rex. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Former NFL head coach and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who has been the subject of much speculation over the years regarding his reported use of bounties to encourage his defensive players to make big plays, had little to say about the controversy surrounding the issue that is now front and center in the NFL. 

Ryan was accused by former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson of placing bounties on two Dallas players in a 1989 Thanksgiving Day game, although Ryan denied it at the time. The NFL could find no evidence of the bounties, despite Johnson's contention that he was told the Eagles had placed a $500 bounty on quarterback Troy Aikman and a $200 bounty on kicker Luis Zendejas. 

"I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game," Johnson said after a 27-0 loss in Dallas. "I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end in the dressing room."

Said Ryan after being told of Johnson's comments: "I resent that. I've been on a diet, lost a couple of pounds. I thought I was looking good."

Reached last night at his horse farm in Kentucky, Ryan was asked about the bounty situation involving the Saints. The team has been accused by NFL security  of having had  as many as 27 defensive players and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams contributing to a fund that would reward players for key plays in a game, including knocking opposing players out of action with big hits. The NFL is now reviewing the matter, and Williams has been called back for a meeting today to discuss his potential involvement with bounties while he was defensive coordinator in Washington and Tennessee, as well as his days as head coach of the Bills. 

"I haven't been following that at all," Ryan said. "Sorry, I can't help you there. I've got to go feed my horses."

Ryan declined further comment. 

Williams' first job in the NFL was as an assistant on the Oilers in 1990 when Ryan was the team's defensive coordinator. 

Ryan also coached former NFL safety Jeff Fisher, now head coach of the Rams. Fisher, during Fisher's days as a Chicago Bears' safety in the 1980's. Fisher hired Williams as his defensive coordinator with the Titans. It is uncertain whether the league will contact Fisher to see if he knew of Williams using bounties with the Titans. The New York Times and the Tennessean reported that Williams offered financial incentives for Titans players who made big hits in games. 

Fisher is a member of the NFL's influential competition committee, which recommends rules changes, many of them designed to promote safety among players. You'd think the league would want to make sure Fisher had no involvement with Williams' bounty program during their days with the Titans, and especially now that Fisher hired Williams to be his defensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. 

Buddy Ryan's son, Rex, is head coach of the Jets and said Saturday in a statement through the team that he has never used bounties, either as a head coach or an assistant. Rex's twin brother, Rob, is defensive coordinator of the Cowboys. 

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