Amidst the frustration and anger over the recent knee injury of Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee, there are some underlining rumblings that it might have been a mistake by a rookie that caused the injury. During a simulated screen pass, the Cowboys first round pick out of Notre Dame, offensive lineman Zack Martin, blocked Lee and plants him hard to the ground. (as seen in the below video). So hard, in fact, you can hear the reaction of the crowd to the hit.
According to the NFL, there is to be no contact during OTAs. But this is football. And for a rookie starting in his very first practice with most of his veteran teammates, it’s hard to blame Martin for being a bit overzealous. But blaming the rookie is exactly what some fans may start doing after viewing the above video.
Many experts in the media seem to think that Lee’s knee gave out prior to the hit by Martin. Whether it did or didn’t, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett reassured ESPNDallas, that no player, no matter how young they are, goes out there to intentionally hurt a teammate.
“We talk a lot about how to practice and understand that we’re going to be in competitive situations, but the guy across from you is your teammate. We understand that we have helmets and jerseys on, and we really emphasize players staying off the ground and how you compete against each other: really get some productive work done early in the down, and then once it gets into a skirmish or competitive situation like it would be in a normal play, you kind of back off of that. So you try to be as productive as you can in the environment that you’re in and make it competitive, but also understand who you’re competing against.”
And though it might be hard to blame an overanxious rookie, the veteran coaching staff is a different story. If players are allowed to make that kind of contact during OTAs, isn’t it the coaches fault for not better instructing their players to “let off the gas”, so to speak?
Others could also look at the restrictions of the new player’s labor agreement as a possible culprit for Lee’s injury as well. The Cowboys have certainly said as much recently, blaming their recent rash of hamstrings on the training limits placed on NFL teams by the Player’s Union.
But for many, the fault probably lies at the feet of Lee himself. If the news is as bad as we expect on Wednesday morning, than the fifth-year veteran will have his third season-ending injury in as many years. And his third ACL injury overall. Of all the great things we can say about Lee and his abilities, durability isn’t one of them.
Regardless of the answers and whom we all choose to blame, every Cowboys fan lost in this situation. Lee’s return was to be an integral part of getting this last placed defense back on the winning track. With news that his knee injury is most likely season-ending, the Cowboys must now find a new middle linebacker. And more importantly, a new leader for their struggling defense.