Dan Connor's 'heart breaks' for Sean Lee

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
3:31
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Dan Connor felt no sense of accomplishment in becoming the Cowboys’ starting inside linebacker after the club lost Sean Lee for the season with a toe injury.

“You don’t want to do it like that, not at all,” said Connor, who added his “heart breaks” for Lee, his former Penn State teammate. “It’s terrible. It’s not a good feeling for me either. I talked to him on the phone last night and he’s put on a brave face, but I’ve been in that type of situation and it’s not a good feeling to step in and play for him. It’s bittersweet for me.”

Connor has two challenges: replace Lee and learn a new position. He spent most of his time playing the Mike linebacker, backing up Bruce Carter, and took occasional snaps at Will linebacker behind Lee. Connor, who signed a two-year deal as a free agent in the offseason, said Lee has already offered help.

“It’s reading his keys on each play and Sean is so complex with it, trying to learn, that it will be hard, how he goes through each progression of each play,” Connor said.

Connor was not on the injury report, but he is battling a minor stinger that came after he replaced Lee last week at Carolina. He had his pads adjusted between special teams drills and the beginning of team drills.

“It gets riled up once in a while, but it’s nothing terrible,” Connor said.

Connor expects defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to go to a committee approach in replacing Lee. The Cowboys signed veteran Ernie Sims on Wednesday, and you can also look for Alex Albright and Orie Lemon if necessary, or the Cowboys can play more defensive backs in passing situations.

“It’s hard to say one guy's going in there and will do what Sean Lee does,” Connor said. “I think he’s the top player in the game at that position. We’ll get a couple of different guys who are good at certain things and do it that way.”

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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