Just over a year ago, the Dallas Cowboys and linebacker Sean Lee suffered a blow that most of us expected to be devastating for a defense that was already going to face challenges during the 2014 season. On May 27th Lee suffered a torn ACL. On June 12th he underwent surgery to repair the damage, and on July 2nd he was officially placed on injured reserve for the season. Many in Cowboys Universe wondered how much worse things could possibly get. I was among those wringing hands, after all I make no bones about Lee being my favorite player.
I will stop short of calling the loss a blessing in disguise, anytime you lose a player and leader of Lee's caliber, it weakens the team. The loss did have a positive impact on the team. Dallas brought in Rolando McClain to man the middle of the linebacking corps, and his return this season will allow Lee to move outside where he should experience a reduction in the wear and tear on his body. That is the plan at this point.
The Cowboys anticipate no problems with Lee adapting to his new role. The one question that is in the back of many minds is not how he will perform on the field, it is just how much of the old #50 will we see once action begins. Pre-training camp workouts will give the team their first look at how well Sean has recovered an an idea of how long it will take for him to get back into the flow of playing football. The Cowboys defensive leader knows he has a lot of work to do before opening weekend.
"I think anytime you start up, even after taking time off after a year you're going to have a little bit of rust," Lee said. "There's definitely work to improve the reads, to get them faster, to get the footwork and all the details to be better and better. There's a lot of room to improve and rust to knock off." - Sean Lee
Lee is now well into the process that will bring him back to the gridiron. He has moved from jogging to all out runs and finally to making cuts at speed. The knee has held up as advertised. This has allowed him the opportunity to finally start working on football related activities and to begin acclimating himself to his new job. Lee anticipates being ready for full participation once the team arrives in Oxnard for training camp.
He readily admits that he is not where he wants to be right now. Given his choice, Lee would be a full participant in everything at minicamp, but the Cowboys organization is playing things with the bigger picture in mind. The team restricted him to individual drills in OTAs and have recently expanded his activities to include seven-on-seven work. There is also speculation that he will be on the linebacker version of a "pitch count" in camp. As much as Lee wants to be out there he is following the team's plan to the letter, even when his instincts lead him to push himself further.
Nobody is more excited for his return than is the player himself. He misses football and is itching to play.
"To get into football shape you have to play football. This is part of getting into shape for training camp and being a part of the [organized team activities and mini-camp] I definitely wanted to be involved as much as I could be."
All that is left for him is to get in on the real action once the team settles in California. July 30th cannot come soon enough for Sean Lee. It has been a long hard year of rehab and it is time for him to shake off the dust and rattle some skulls on the football field.