Sean Lee at one time was one of the top linebackers in the NFL along with Seattle's Booby Wagner and the recently retired Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, injuries in the past have put him on the sidelines more than he would like. However, with the Dallas Cowboys having young studs like Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch at linebacker Lee isn't asked to carry as big of a load as he did in years previous.
When Vander Esch missed seven games in 2019 with a neck issue, Lee filled in nicely, so much so that he was the best player on defense for the Cowboys in back to back victories against the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants midseason.
As he enters year 11, Lee has had to adjust his normal offseason routine due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited access to team facilities. Nonetheless, it hasn't stopped the veteran from staying on top of his game as he's done a lot of work on his own which he mentioned to ESPN's Todd Archer recently.
“I had to jump a couple fences to get on some different places,” Lee said regarding doing linebacker drills in different locations.
“I kind of stayed on the same schedule. I wouldn't run as much early on, but then closer to the OTAs, I would gear up my running toward what it would be like during those OTAs and then for what it would be like going into a minicamp. It's like approaching each segment of the offseason like always, and now going into the summer, it's getting ready for training camp.”
A huge roadblock during this offseason has been the lack of face-to-face interaction with the players and coaches.
“That's the toughest part, not being around the guys and building that bond that you work on from March to now,” Lee said. “The shared sacrifice of lifting and running together and kind of growing closer over time with hard work.”
Lee and the other defensive players have been communicating through Zoom calls and group text messages in an effort to be as prepared as possible when they return to the field. That's extremely important considering new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan will be implementing a hybrid scheme with three and four-man fronts this season.
“Mentally, we've been able to do some incredible work and still learn even if physically we've not been able to be around each other,” Lee said.
With over a decade in the league, Lee realizes that his window of opportunity for a championship is closing and he's urgent to capitalize on whatever chances he has left.
“You feel like the old man when you realize some of these mid-, late-'90s birthdays of the guys you're playing with,” Lee said. “It does keep you young. But I'm as excited as I've ever been and love the game as much as I ever loved it. It's good. It gives you a sense of urgency that you only have so many shots to win a championship. When you get near the end and don't have that championship, you feel that more than ever.”
The elder statesman of the Cowboys linebacker group showed in 2019 that he still has plenty left in the tank with nearly 90 tackles. He's preparing as vigorously as ever and will without question be ready to go when the 2020 NFL season kicks off.