After leading the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC championship game appearances, Rex Ryan says he's more anxious about this season's opener than those games.
And it's not because his brother, Rob Ryan, will be making his debut as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator on the opposing sideline.
The Jets and Cowboys meet Sunday night at the newly renamed MetLife Stadium in what figures to be an emotionally charged atmosphere on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
This marquee matchup between sibling rivals will have father Buddy Ryan in attendance, even though it was revealed this week that the elder Ryan has a form of cancer.
It would normally figure that the outspoken twin brothers would be exchanging some good-natured trash talk. The timing of this game taking place in the New York area on such a significant date has Rex Ryan thinking other thoughts.
"Usually, it's like I go against my brother and all that and you have a lot of fun with that, but obviously I feel it's different, like a responsibility," Rex Ryan said. "The significance of it, I think it's stronger than any game I've ever felt. I feel more pressure on this game for whatever reason than any game I've ever coached, it seems like."
Each fan will receive an American flag upon entering the stadium, and children of first responders will serve as honorary team captains.
Rex Ryan's Jets won 26-20 in overtime last year when Rob Ryan was a coordinator for Cleveland. Rob Ryan is confident he can turn things around for Dallas, which allowed the second-most points in the NFL in 2010.
"I've been an assistant coach of the year in pro football and in college football, so apparently I'm pretty good," said Rob Ryan, who has retained the 3-4 defense the Cowboys used in 2010. "No one else believes it, but they all will after this game."
While a Jets' defense that ranked third overall last season has been the team's calling card under Rex Ryan, the offense figures to be more dynamic. Mark Sanchez will begin his third season as the starter, and he has a major new weapon in Plaxico Burress.
Burress will play in an NFL game for the first time since Nov. 23, 2008, with the Giants. Five days later, the infamous incident took place in which Burress shot himself in the thigh in a New York nightclub. The subsequent gun charge led to Burress spending 20 months in prison.
"You can't ask for a better stage," Burress said. "Especially with everything going on with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and playing 'America's Team,' the Cowboys. It's the first Sunday night game of the year. We're playing them here. Great organization, great stadium. You just can't set a better stage for the things that we want to accomplish as a team."
While Burress comes back after being away from the game a long time, Tony Romo returns for his first action since breaking his left clavicle in the Cowboys' sixth game last season against the Giants.
There are fewer question marks about Romo than about a Dallas offensive line that features three new blockers.
"These guys have done a good job coming together," Romo said. "They're starting to jell. They just have to go out and play, do what they've been coached to do. I think we've got a good group of guys. Guys are going to work hard and give it their all out there, and that's all that you can ask."
How good Romo's protection is will help determine whether he can spread the ball around to Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and Miles Austin as well as explosive second-year receiver Dez Bryant.
"Start with the tight end (Witten), he caught almost 100 balls or something last year, a big, fast guy, a complete tight end," Rex Ryan said. "And then you have Dez Bryant, the young kid from here (Austin) - they're loaded."
Jason Garrett begins his first full season as coach after guiding Dallas to a 5-3 mark when he took over for Wade Phillips midway through last year's 6-10 campaign.
"When you're zero wins and zero losses with the whole season in front of you," Garrett said, "I think you are hopeful."
Garrett's counterpart is clearly more than hopeful.
"I know it's football and we're not talking about life or death or anything like that," Rex Ryan said. "I don't know, that's kind of how I'm taking it. It's my job. My job is to get this team ready to go, and we will."
Cowboys starting cornerback Terence Newman didn't practice Wednesday and likely won't play Sunday because of a lingering groin problem, and fellow starting cornerback Mike Jenkins left practice with a knee injury. Starting right tackle Tyron Smith also left with a knee injury.