Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 5/4/12
IRVING, Texas The Dallas Cowboys' players are seeing a lot less of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan these days. He's lost 35 pounds after having lap band surgery. They're also going to see a lot more of Ryan, as in coaching the rookie camps and mini camps the Cowboys missed out on last season because of the labor dispute. Both factors should result in both Ryan and the defense being in better shape in 2012. "We're taking our time to teach defense the way it needs to be taught," Ryan said Friday as the Cowboys opened a two-day rookie camp. "I'm not making excuses for last season, it was all me. I screwed it all up. We're fortunate enough to get another shot and we plan on getting it right." Ryan was sporting a new, shorter haircut in addition to a slimmer waistline. "I'm down 35 pounds already, so that's a good thing," Ryan said. "It's only been a couple of months. Dr. Smith's real happy with me. So hell, I'll keep working." Ryan said he's not changing his appearance to look more like a head coach, as other overweight assistants have done to improve their chances of getting a promotion. Health issues were behind the decision to have the lap band surgery, which restricts the amount of food a person can ingest. "Well, I mean breathing at night, my wife, just, uh, we were looking for the long haul here," Ryan said. "I did it for health, not for beauty. I did get a sweet cut." The haircut, he said, makes him look more like a cowboy. He hopes the hands-on work in the offseason will make his unit look more like a Rob Ryan defense this season. With the players locked out last spring and summer, Ryan was also virtually locked out from teaching his system in his first season with the team. By the time the labor impasse was broken, Ryan had to turn training camp into a crash course. "I put a little too much in, and too fast, and you know we didn't have any basics, we had no foundation," Ryan said. "We were trying to keep it in, but this is what you build on. You have a foundation, you build it here. Then you're so much further ahead in training camp." Players admitted to communication issues early in the season. There were also personnel issues that limited what Ryan could do, but there were other breakdowns throughout the season that kept the defense from getting stops. "Everything was new," Ryan said. "I'm not making any excuses for why we did bad or whatever, and I'm terrible The bottom line is this helps. It's like getting a tutor. My kid gets a tutor, he gets 90s in math. He doesn't, 40s. We need 90s or 100s." The tutoring begins with the rookies, both draft picks and undrafted free agents, getting introduced to the Ryan scheme. The Ryan School of Defense began Thursday when playbooks were issued. "I'm not dumbing it down, we're going to teach at a slower pace that we can actually learn, so everybody feels good about it," Ryan said. "We've come back to square one and we start from day one here and it's going to be great." Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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