Cowboys' Olshansky really opposite Rivers, LT now

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Igor Olshansky lined up opposite Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson regularly the past five seasons. Back when they were teammates in practice, when hitting was virtually off limits.

Not this week. Part of Olshansky's task as a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys is to chase down Rivers and Tomlinson and beat the Chargers.

``I've never done that before. I've never hit Philip or hit L.T. really, so it's going to be a lot of fun,'' Olshansky said Wednesday, though he made clear his intentions aren't spiteful for Sunday's game against San Diego.

The Chargers didn't attempt to re-sign Olshansky when their former second-round draft pick became an unrestricted free agent after starting 70 games in five seasons. He instead signed a four-year deal with Dallas and was reunited with Wade Phillips, who before becoming the Cowboys head coach was San Diego's defensive coordinator.

``I'm excited. It's fun. I know the guys and they know me. There's not going to be any hard feelings or anything like that,'' Olshansky said. ``It's just going to be a lot of fun, a lot of competitive stuff, and it's going to be a physical game definitely. I want it to be a physical game.''

With the Cowboys looking to fill the gap created when Chris Canty left for the New York Giants in free agency, Olshansky was a perfect fit for their 3-4 defense. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Ukrainian-born Olshansky spent the first three seasons of his career in the same defense for Phillips in San Diego.

``Being with Wade's defense obviously makes my learning curve a lot faster. I know my job and what I'm here to do,'' Olshansky said. ``The guys have been really great.''

Olshansky has 57 tackles and has blended in nicely with the Cowboys (8-4), who play their only home game in a four-week stretch Sunday against the AFC West-leading Chargers (9-3), who have a seven-game winning streak.

``He's made a significant impact. ... When you don't have a learning curve and you get the opportunity to just come in and play, you're seeing that manifest,'' said Marcus Spears, the Cowboys' other starting end.

``He's really pumped up to play this game because he knows what he's going against,'' Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. ``It's sort of like he's back home now. He's going to prove to them that they should've kept him. It's their loss.''

Ware often lines up on the same side as Olshansky, and said teams ``don't normally run to his side.'' In turn, that has allowed Ware to focus more on pass rushing.

There are even more reunions this weekend than Olshansky and Phillips facing the Chargers.

Tomlinson, the former TCU standout, is returning for only his second NFL game in the Dallas area. Chargers coach Norv Turner was an offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl championships in Dallas and former Cowboys linebacker Kevin Burnett is now starting for San Diego, where he is wearing No. 99 - like Olshansky did there and does in Dallas.

Despite his familiarity with the Chargers offensive personnel, Olshansky doesn't expected that to be a huge advantage for him

``I know those guys and they know me, so I think they kind of cancel each other out,'' he said. ``I think the best players are going to win. There's going to be some battles. They're going to win some, I'm going to win some. It's just a matter of winning more at the end of the day than they do.''

So what happens if Olshansky sacks Rivers or tackles Rivers? Will there be any ``Hey, buddy, how are you doing?'' exchanges.

``Maybe something like that,'' Olshansky said. ``Or maybe I just won't say anything and get back to the line of scrimmage.''

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