SAN ANTONIO – The second week of training camp is about to start and Sean Lee is still healthy.
That’s a sign of progress for the second-year linebacker.
The Cowboys considered Lee a mid-first round talent when they traded up to draft him in the late second round of last year’s draft. They remain confident that Lee can develop into a star – and make a significant impact this season – if he can stay healthy.
That, however, is a huge if.
The primary reason Lee slid into the late second round was due to a devastating knee injury Lee suffered that caused him to miss the 2008 season. His development was delayed as a rookie due to a quadriceps strain he suffered early in camp, a hamstring strain in the season opener and a shoulder injury and concussion late in the season.
Some of that is simply bad luck, but Lee spent the offseason working to do everything possible to prevent further injuries.
“Everything I can control, I’ve done, so we’ll see what happens,” Lee said. “There’s so much that I’ve gone into to try to make sure I get healthy. Getting in hyperbaric chambers, making sure you’re always lifting, getting on top of your legs, your strength, your stability, your core, making sure you’re eating healthy, making sure you’re getting enough sleep.
“I could go down the line of things that I’ve tried to do to make sure I can stay healthy. Taking certain supplements that help you, like fish oils. Little details that help you stay healthy I’ve tried to get very good with and get very detailed with.”
Lee has spent a considerable amount of time picking the brain of 14-year veteran Keith Brooking on the subject. Brooking dealt with several injuries during his first two seasons, but he hasn’t missed a game since then, giving him the second longest active consecutive games played streak among linebackers.
Ironically, a hamstring strain suffered by Brooking has given Lee more reps during this camp. The coaches like what they’ve seen.
“He’s tough, he’s competitive, he’s smart, he’s a good football player and a great person as a bonus,” linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. “He’s got all the good things you look for in a linebacker.”
Added defensive coordinator Rob Ryan: “He’s going to be excellent.”
Brooking will probably remain the starter once he returns, but the plan is for Lee’s snaps to increase significantly this season.
Despite dealing with all the injuries, Lee had flashes of brilliance as a rookie. The primary example was his spectacular performance against the Colts, when he earned NFC defensive player of the week honors by making nine tackles and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown … and injuring his shoulder as he landed in the end zone.
“That Colts game things just came together,” Lee said. “I was feeling good that day and had a good game, but I need to build on that. That’s something I need to take from last year and I’ve got to do it every game, starting from the beginning of the season and going all the way through.
“A big part of that is staying healthy.”
That’s the big question about Lee. There aren’t many others.