IRVING, Texas – And we thought it couldn’t get more frustrating for Sean Lee.
Eager to shed this injury-prone label and finally come into his own and possibly establish himself as one of the NFL’s best linebackers, Lee couldn’t even make it through the first OTA practice yesterday before he suffered the most significant injury of his pro career.
Lee has been informed that he has a torn ACL in his left knee. The injury more than likely will put him on injured reserve for all of the Dallas Cowboys 2014 season.
While the Cowboys don’t have to make a decision right now, it’s likely Lee will start training camp on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) and then the Cowboys would have about nine weeks before they’d have to place him on IR or activate him.
This is just the latest of unfortunate setbacks for Lee, who has missed 18 games in his first four seasons, including five of the final six games last season because of two separate injuries. It was a neck injury that sidelined him for the last three games of the season.
Even in college, Lee had multiple setbacks, including a torn ACL in the same left knee that plagued him at Penn State and certainly hurt his draft stock. The Cowboys admittedly had Lee ranked among the Top 16 players in the 2010 draft but were able to draft him 55th overall in the second round.
“Sean’s had to deal with injuries through college and also here in the NFL and he really does everything he can to get himself ready to play,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Unfortunately he’s had to deal with a few of these things but he’s as mentally tough an individual as I’ve ever been around. So whatever the circumstances are he always puts his best foot forward and strives to be his best. Don’t anticipate this being any different.”
Lee was recently cleared by the Cowboys’ medical staff to participate in full for the start of the OTA practices. Towards the end of Tuesday’s practice, Lee was chasing down a screen pass when he collided with rookie guard Zack Martin in the middle of the field. Lee was trying to stop when his left foot planted into the ground at the same time Martin ran into him. Immediately, Lee dropped to the ground, where he stayed for about two minutes before needing assistance in walking off the field.
“I really don’t know what happened there,” Martin said. “It was just a football play and we were both going full speed. I really don’t know.”
The obviously-frustrated linebacker couldn’t hide his emotions as he went into the locker room.
The high energy and enthusiasm that was evident at the start of practice was completely zapped when Lee went down. His teammates, including the offensive players, feel the loss of Lee.
“Sean’s been as committed and hardworking a teammate as I’ve ever been around,” Romo said. “I love the guy like a brother. He’s the epitome of what you want in a football player. You always know Sean’s going to give you 100 percent. Anytime you can get as many of him as you can on a football team, you’ve got a great chance.”
The Cowboys might even look to the free-agent market for help. Notable names such as Jonathan Vilma, Dan Connor and Erin Henderson are currently available.
RELATED: Playing without core defenders is nothing new to Dallas Cowboys
IRVING, Texas – One year ago, after the Cowboys finished their first OTA practice of 2013, any talk about the defense typically centered on about five guys. For this team to turn the corner and make the smooth transition to the 4-3 scheme, they needed their “ballers” to ball out.
That’s DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Sean Lee, and at the time, it was probably Brandon Carr. And then after that, Jason Hatcher, Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter were being counted on as well.
Man, what a difference 12 months can make.
Ware, Ratliff and Hatcher … gone.
Lee is now out for the season again. Spencer doesn’t seem to be that close to returning from a microfracture knee surgery. And Claiborne and Carter are just trying to battle their way into the starting lineup again.
A year ago, these were your core guys on defense. And now, most of them are gone and the rest are not being counted on very heavily.
Good luck, Rod Marinelli.
You could say the new defensive coordinator has his hands full in trying to restore a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL last season. Then again, you might say things are rather empty in terms of players he can count on to right this ship.
This defense can recover from this injury. Yes, Sean Lee is one of the best players on this team when he’s healthy. But obviously, he’s not always healthy.
It’s not easy to diagnose this loss because on the one hand, Lee gets hurt all the time. This team has certainly gotten used to playing without him. On the other, though, they don’t really play very well when he’s not in the lineup.
You can’t ignore the fact that the Cowboys have had to battle their way without Lee for a lot of games here in the last three seasons. Over that time, he should have 48 starts, but he’s missed 16. That’s a whole season. And now you’re going to add 16 more missed games.
The Dallas Cowboys should’ve had a real plan for this scenario all along. And hopefully the plan wasn’t strictly to draft Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round.
They could hand it over to DeVonte Holloman and tell the kid to become a middle linebacker. We saw it the last two games of last year and he was very impressive considering his limited time at the position. Hand it over to Holloman and let him grow up and learn on the run. If there is a silver lining to Lee injury, it’s that it’s still early enough in the season to groom someone else.
People want to throw out the Jonathan Vilma and Brian Urlacher talk, and who knows, the Cowboys might be looking for that, too. But look from within the current roster and start with Holloman with Hitchens getting increased reps as well.
Yes, this team better find out quick how to play without Sean Lee. Then again, they’ve already had plenty of experience.
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