Sean Lee might want to forget about the 2018 season. The former All-Pro linebacker faced multiple injuries once again and then saw his starting job given to an outstanding rookie in Leighton Vander Esch.
There was even speculation that Lee would be cut by the Dallas Cowboys in the off-season to save money. Yet, Lee agreed to a major pay cut to stay with the only team he has known.
Going into 2019, the linebacker faces a new role and a lot of questions about his future, but his enthusiasm to help the Cowboys win a title has never wavered.
Lee often vacations in Santa Barbara with his wife in the offseason, close to where the Cowboys hold their training camp in Oxnard. He could have easily just traveled there on his own, but instead, he flew out to Dallas to leave with the rest of his teammates on the team charter plane.
“There is something special about getting together as a group going to camp,” Lee said.
That kind of spirit and veteran leadership is just what the Cowboys want from Lee as he prepares to take a new role with the team. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch as your top linebackers this season, Lee will move into the SAM linebacker role.
The position, which former Cowboy Damien Wilson anchored last season, doesn’t play as much and figures more into running game situations.
That is a huge downgrade for a player that was once the most important piece to the defense. Lee practically held this defense together and it was noticeable when he wasn’t playing.
Now, he is embracing a new role as a backup and ready to help tutor those young players ahead of him as well.
While he lightens his load on the defensive end, the veteran linebacker found another way to make an impact on the field, playing on Special Teams. While usually reserved for younger players, Lee volunteered to play more snaps with the Special Teams.
It is something that the 10-year pro hasn’t done since his second year in the league. Yet, Lee thinks this is a good way to help his team make a play.
“I said, ‘I am trying to get out there and play. You need depth in special teams,’” Lee said. “That is part of being a linebacker, being able to play a lot of those positions. Making myself available is what I tried to do.”
Now there is a big risk involved with playing on special teams more. The idea of keeping Lee on the sidelines and fresh makes sense as he won’t get injured as often and he can make the plays when necessary.
Yet, adding him on a unit that puts him in harm’s way much more often isn’t going to do you any good. If Lee goes down, you will have some depth issues if one of your main linebackers goes down as well.
Nonetheless, the idea of Lee willing to set aside his ego and volunteer to do a job that most veterans wouldn’t touch shows you how much love he has for this team and his teammates. It also proves that Lee must believe that his team has the talent ready to make a run at a Super Bowl.
That figures to be the one last goal this veteran has before his career finally ends. A career that shows us what type of player everyone should try to aspire to be. The ultimate team player is what Sean Lee has perfected.
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