I have been watching quite a bit of tape lately. Randall Cobb’s 2018 season in Green Bay, Robert Quinn’s tenure with the Dolphins and even some tape on George Iloka’s time in Minnesota. It has been a really enjoyable and rewarding experience. I still have much to learn about the intricacies of football and the tape is as good a teacher as any.
I was watching tape for a piece about Robert Quinn when someone outside the coffee shop window caught my attention. A muscular man in a much-too-tight sweater walked up to the door with two giant brown dogs. Walking inside, the man approached the counter and quietly placed his order before returning outside to sit with his dogs and drink his coffee.
Pondering the best possible course of action, I waited until the man was comfortably situated before approaching him and saying hello. I didn’t want to bother him, I’m certain he just wanted to enjoy his coffee. However, it’s not every day I get to meet all-pro linebacker Sean Lee.
I bumped into Sean Lee in a coffee shop and it got me thinking…
Unsurprisingly to literally anyone who has ever held a conversation with him, Sean was nothing but polite. I asked him how his body was feeling and if he was ready for 2019.
Shortly after our conversation, two women walked past him with dropped jaws. I thought to myself “uh-oh, Sean’s made for sure. So much for his peaceful cup of coffee.” Instead, they asked to pet his dogs and quickly went on their way.
Watching the all-pro, 2x pro-bowl linebacker go virtually unnoticed by everyone for the better part of thirty minutes made me think about Lee and his place not only on the Cowboys’ depth chart, but his rightful place in the hearts of Cowboys fans.
Don’t forget about Sean Lee
It’s been a busy offseason. Demarcus Lawerence agreed to terms on a 5-year, $105 million dollar contract.
Franchise icon and all-time reception leader Jason Witten came out of retirment and rejoined the team to once again pursue a Super Bowl.
Veteran players Randall Cobb, Robert Quinn, and George Iloka have all joined the boys in blue.
Cole Beasley departed to join the Buffalo Bills.
However, it is critical to remember that on March 9th, Sean Lee agreed to a contraction extension that cut his 2019 salary in half. Why? He wants to remain a Dallas Cowboy.
Missing 9 games in 2018 due to a hamstring injury, others answered the bell in Lee’s absence. The dynamic linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch began to be touted as the “future” of the Cowboys defense. Truthfully, it’s well deserved. The young linebackers have played terrifically for Dallas. Their aggressive improvement is a big part of why Dallas is a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2019.
In the course of one season, the narrative on Lee and his value to the Cowboys began to shift in the public eye.
Headlines that once read:
“Once again, Cowboys’ defense has no answers without Sean Lee“
Began to look more like this:
“Sean Lee was once the glue, now may be hurting Cowboys defense“
If you search “Sean Lee” on Twitter, you won’t find him. He doesn’t have one. Lee undoubtedly hears the chatter. Although it’s his contentious dedication to rise above it that makes all the difference
Lee’s situation is common, but his response is what makes him special
Lee isn’t in an uncommon situation. Injuries in combination with the development of younger talent frequently force veterans to adapt to new roles on the very teams they helped build. Although few players have handled it quite like Sean Lee.
Lee could fight it. After all, he is a respected voice in the locker room. He could protest and complain about the situation he finds himself in. But Lee understands that the development of Smith and Vander Esch is crucial to accomplishing his ultimate goal, winning a Super Bowl as a Dallas Cowboy.
So instead, he helps develop those he is competing against for play time. He celebrates their accomplishments and gives valuable insight from what he sees on the field. And make no mistake, Lee sees absolutely everything on the field.
Sean Lee is such a joy to study. He has one of the best processors in the NFL, exhibits great eye discipline, takes phenomenal pursuit angles & displays a very good ability to defeat blocks.
Lee is the heart of the #Cowboys defense & one of the top 3 off-ball LBs in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/LF3WpLswAa
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) May 29, 2018
Even after multiple hamstring injuries and an ACL tear, Lee is capable of starting for well over 20 of the league’s 32 teams. Instead, he is a critical rotation piece for the best linebacker trio in football. A critical component to a potential Super Bowl run.
Ultimately, his decision to embrace and accept his reduced role in the 2019 defense is arguably the best thing to happen to the Cowboys this offseason.
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