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Has Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee Shed The Injury-Prone Label?

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Once upon a time Sean Lee getting hurt was almost an expectation, but has The General ridden himself of that reputation?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Lee is without question the best player on the Dallas Cowboys defense.

General Lee (“General Lee!” in my best Robin and Ted impersonation from How I Met Your Mother) is not only the best, but he’s also the leader of Rod Marinelli’s unit. To put it mildly, Sean’s presence on the field is absolutely vital... except, you know, in 2014 when the Cowboys won 12 games without it.

Since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Lee has really grown in Dallas. He’s turned into a Pro Bowler and last season finally got his first All-Pro nod. The on-field things have never been in doubt with Sean, it’s been his ability to stay on the field that has.

You likely remember how low you felt when Sean Lee tore his ACL during OTAs in 2014, courtesy of Zack Martin and a terrible accident. It was then that the questions really started to circle around Sean Lee and his future in the NFL. At that point in time Lee had missed 15 games over the previous two seasons and was about to miss an entire one. Yikes.

2015 was a horrendous season for Cowboys fans, but a big light of optimism that shone through it was Sean Lee’s health. He dealt with bumps, bruises, and a few concussion scares, but Sean Lee only really missed one game that season when the Cowboys traveled to Tampa Bay. He was of course inactive in the season finale, a move that garnered a lot of national attention.

Lee’s contract calls for his salary to be $5 million in 2016 if he plays at least 80 percent of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps in 2015, but only $3 million if he plays less than 80 percent of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps. So far this season, Lee has played 812 of the Cowboys’ 989 snaps, or 82.1 percent.

But the Cowboys have declared Lee inactive today with a hamstring injury. That means that when the Cowboys’ defense plays its 27th play today, and its 1,016th play of the season, Lee will have officially played less than 80 percent of the plays for the season.

Not counting that season finale, Sean Lee only missed one game in 2015. The same is also true for last season when Lee was absent for the regular-season finale for the second year in a row, this time because the Cowboys were resting players for the playoffs.

We’re now at a point in time where Sean Lee has, in terms of true misses due to injury, only missed one game over the last two seasons. If you look at the timeline of the last five years it really is astounding:

  • Sean Lee misses 15/32 games from 2012-2013, 47%.
  • Sean Lee misses all of the 2014 season.
  • Sean Lee misses 1/33 games from 2015-2016 (not counting the two regular season finales because he could have played had he really needed to), 3%.

It’s likely that you’re screaming at me for speaking these words because these are things you try not to say out loud if you’re superstitious. The point though is that when it comes to current day Sean Lee, we’re past the point of needing that. He’s proven that.

Sean Lee had his healthiest season a year ago, and that has continued into the offseason. For the first time since 2012, the Cowboys linebacker isn’t spending his spring rehabbing from surgery.

It’s been quite a five year ride for The General to get back to a point of no rehab. The facts prove that it’s been one well worth the price of admission as Sean Lee is becoming quite dependable, and not just on the field.