It is often said that football is a battle of attrition and that concept is certainly being tested by the 2020 Dallas Cowboys. As we approach Week 2 the Cowboys are winless on the season (0-1 can definitely be overcome), but injuries are without question a concern. Dallas put three players on injured reserve on Tuesday in Leighton Vander Esch, Blake Jarwin, and Cam Erving, and they join the three that were there before in Sean Lee, La’el Collins, and Ventell Bryant.
Blake Jarwin is the only of those names that is 100% lost for this season as he tore his ACL. We will all be holding our breath until La’el Collins returns, but with Vander Esch projected to miss 6-8 weeks, the return of Sean Lee was going to be a welcome one in theory.
It appears as if it will take a bit longer than some might have thought.
Sean Lee is expected to be out six weeks after hernia surgery, he could be back by mid-October
It is important to remember the way that injured reserve is working here in 2020. Due to Covid-19 protocols NFL teams can return an unlimited number of players off of injured reserve after they have spent three weeks there. A lot of teams are using this to create roster spots already while certain players heal up since three weeks feels rather manageable.
Sean Lee was already on injured reserve as mentioned but he will not be returning in Week 4. According to NFL Network’s Jane Slater the veteran linebacker underwent hernia surgery and is expected to be out six weeks as a result. Apparently a return in mid-October is possible.
Sources: #Cowboys LB Sean Lee is expected to be out six weeks after undergoing hernia surgery last week in Philadelphia with noted specialist Dr. William Meyers. Lee started the season on injured reserve and now is looking at a mid-October return.— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) September 16, 2020
Nobody is going to sit here and tell you that Sean Lee was going to return and completely mitigate the short-term loss of LVE, but valuable depth is never a bad thing. And for what it’s worth, he filled in admirably for Vander Esch last season, so not having him around for a big chunk of the absence is not exactly great.
In talking about replacing Vander Esch’s snaps, though, there actually were a lot of people who weren’t even considering Sean Lee. Francis Bernard is on the Cowboys practice squad and seemed like a logical choice to join the 53-man roster given the team’s current circumstances. On Tuesday, the Cowboys did not go that route and instead chose to sign linebacker Rashad Smith off of the Chicago Bears’ practice squad.
This was a bit of a curious move but given this Lee news makes sense when paired with a report from The Dallas Morning News. There are all sorts of intricacies to the way that rosters work in the NFL, and apparently the only way that the Cowboys could have both Rashad Smith (who they clearly like) and Francis Bernard (who they are protecting from being poached by another team) was to logistically handle things in the order that they have done so.
Cowboys elected not to promote LB Francis Bernard from practice squad, signing LB Rashad Smith off Bears’ PS instead. But they’ll be protecting Bernard for a second straight week. No other team can sign him. This was only way Dallas could have both Bernard and Smith in building.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 15, 2020
Considering the fact that the Cowboys are going to be operating without Leighton Vander Esch for some time and that Sean Lee won’t be able to help for a majority of it, the team was clearly in need of two linebackers for help and depth. Enter Rashad Smith and Francis Bernard as they are allowed to enter together.