Sean Lee’s season-ending injury evoked a lot of emotions on Tuesday.
Disappointment. Frustration. Disbelief. Sympathy. And a re-booted appreciation for the longevity of Emmitt Smith.
Lee tore his ACL when his left knee buckled preparing to take on a supposed non-contact block from rookie offensive lineman Zack Martin in Day 1 of OTAs at Valley Ranch. In other words, the Cowboys’ season ended before your Memorial Day hangover subsided.
The Cowboys just lost their most valuable defensive player; the Tony Romo of the other side of the ball.
From a torn ACL at Penn State to pulled hamstrings to the toe in 2012 and last season’s neck injury, it’s time to swallow hard and admit the truth: Sean Lee is as fragile as he is fantastic.
Part of Smith’s Hall-of-Fame greatness was his durability in a violent game. At this point Lee is on track to be another Randy Hughes, the immensely talented and productive Cowboys’ safety in the late ‘70s who had his promising career short-circuited by numerous shoulder injuries.
The Cowboys dutifully prepared for this financially, tying a chunk of Lee’s new contract to incentive clauses based on playing time. But they can’t prepare for the hole his injury leaves on the field.
Last year Dallas used four different middle linebackers: Lee, Ernie Sims, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman. Lee’s health was near the top of priorities for this season, but just like that … kaput.
Now the Cowboys will be without DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Lee, and with Henry Melton coming back from a torn ACL and Anthony Spencer likely to begin the season sidelined while recovering from knee surgery. And who exactly is now the leader of the Cowboys’ defense: Barry Church? Brandon Carr?
I know it’s May and the Cowboys have tons of time to find Lee’s replacement before September. But make no mistake, another 8-8 season just got a lot more difficult.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.