Sean Lee: I have to stay healthy
"I think I'll come back completely healthy," Lee said Tuesday in his first comments since suffering the injury in May. "Now, the question is, can I stay out there? That's something that, obviously, I'm hopeful for, and I'm going to do everything I can do to do that and control everything I can. But at the end of the day, there's situations that you might not be able to avoid. I'm not going to stress too much about that end. I'm just going to do what I can do."
Lee suffered the injury during the Cowboys' first organized team activity. He was attempting to change direction when his leg buckled. Having torn his right ACL at Penn State, Lee immediately knew he had torn his left ACL.
The Cowboys have placed Lee on season-ending injured reserve, but he is with the team in Oxnard, California, for rehab and is involved in the defensive meetings on a daily basis. It is possible he could travel with the team for road games during the regular season.
"He's doing his rehab to get himself ready, but he's completely integrated with our football team," coach Jason Garrett said. "I can't think of a better guy to be in that role. He just embraces every chance he gets to be that much better."
Lee has yet to play in a full 16-game season, having missed games with hamstring, wrist, neck and knee injuries. He is in the second-year of the six-year extension he signed this past summer. It was worth $42 million and included a $10 million signing bonus.
Lee could have earned more money based on playing time incentives in 2014. Part of his $16 million guarantee remains on the deal for 2015, but he is aware of the business side of the NFL.
"They pay me to be out there making plays and helping us win games," Lee said. "If you're injured, you're not out there. So I have to find a way to stay out there, and I get it. I have to come back from this injury and stay healthy. I see it as, my back is against the wall a little bit. I understand that, and hopefully I can come back, never be injured again and help this team win football games. But if I'm not doing that, then that's the way it goes. It's a business decision, and I would understand that completely."
The Cowboys, however, believe Lee will make a full recovery and return to the form that made him their best defender the past few seasons -- when he was able to stay on the field. Despite missing five games the past season, he finished second on the team with 123 tackles.
Justin Durant is the current first-team middle linebacker, but the Cowboys have liked what they have seen from Rolando McClain, who was acquired in a trade from the Baltimore Ravens, in the early part of training camp.
Lee is serving as a part-time coach after he completes his daily rehab. He served in that role after tearing his right ACL at Penn State.
"A little bit like a coach, but I feel more like a teammate," Lee said "I feel like a guy who is here supporting his teammates and trying to help any way we can, because I want a championship in the worst way, to be part of a championship team. The role's not what I necessarily wanted it to be, but it's still a role, and I'm still blessed to have that role."