Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee Announces Retirement From the NFL

The 34-year-old, who has been a free agent, announced his retirement Monday in a letter

Sean Lee retired Monday after the linebacker spent all of his 11 mostly injury-plagued seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

The 34-year-old said in a letter released by the club that it was "my time to walk away." Lee is eighth in team history with 995 tackles.

A second-round pick out of Penn State in 2010, Lee led all NFL linebackers in interceptions through his first six seasons with 12, despite missing all of 2014 after tearing a knee ligament in the first offseason practice.

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Lee is fourth among Dallas linebackers with 14 interceptions and holds the club record for tackles in a game with 22 against the New York Giants in 2016, his only All-Pro season.

Injuries ending up defining Lee's career. He missed the final 10 games of 2012 with a toe injury and five of the final six games the next year with hamstring and neck issues before the season-ending knee injury in the 2014 offseason.

The only years in which Lee didn't miss at least one game with injuries were 2016, when the two-time Pro Bowler helped the Cowboys reach the divisional round of the playoffs, and 2019. Hamstring injuries sidelined Lee frequently later in his career.

NBC 5 Sports Director Newy Scruggs shares his thoughts on Sean Lee’s retirement after 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

By his final season, Lee had a secondary role behind the young leaders of the linebacking group, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys went 6-10 in coach Mike McCarthy's first season, missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Medical concerns hurt Lee's stock in the draft after he tore a ligament in his right knee at Penn State. After the 2014 injury with the Cowboys, Lee said doctors had told him after the injury in college that his left knee was at risk of a similar issue.

Lee finished with more than 100 tackles six times, topped by 174 in 2016. He was healthy all year for the NFC East champions that season, but sat the final game of the regular season with Dallas' playoff scenario all but set.

He announced his retirement Monday in a letter:

For 11 seasons I was privileged to wear the Cowboys star. We want to play forever. But today, it's my time to walk away.

To the Jones family, you treated me as one of your own since I arrived. You allowed me to shine and grow as a player and person. Thank you for your support and graciousness.

To the coaches, your endless hours of work made me a better player and pushed me to places I didn't know I could go. I'll carry your lessons through the rest of my life.

To my teammates, I love you like brothers. The bond of our shared sacrifice will last forever. I'll miss the brotherhood, but will cherish the memories from the locker room following all the big wins and tough losses.

To the athletic training staff, Lord knows you earned your money working with me. But I couldn't have made it through my injuries without you. Britt Brown, thank you for pushing me as far as you did.

To the fans, you lifted me up when I needed it most. I didn't want to let you down. If there's a regret, it's that I never helped bring a championship back home, because you deserve it so much.

To my family, you have always been my foundation. I love and cherish all of you. I couldn't have done anything without your support. Mom and Dad, you showed me the right way, giving me every opportunity to succeed. To my brother and sister, I looked to both of you for inspiration. To my in-laws, thanks for all your love and support. To my wife, Megan, I love you dearly. You were there for every injury, every bad game. I never would have persevered without your support.

To the game of football, it changed my life.

Whenever I'm near a field, the smell brings me back to when I first started playing, pulling on a helmet, trying on those shoulder pads, that perfect tackle. To think of the journey now, experiencing things I never thought possible with the men and women who make this game what it is, I'm beyond grateful.

Thank you, Cowboys Nation. It has been my honor.

Copyright Associated Press
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