For some strange reason, I’ll always remember exactly where I was when I got the news, via text, that Sean Lee had suffered a torn ACL in the spring, and was going to be lost for the season. The Nittany Lions’ season, that is. It was 2008, and I was just finishing up my sophomore year at Penn State, spending the weekend with a bunch of friends at a retreat near State College, Pennsylvania.
Unlike most Cowboys fans, I’ve been through this before: losing Lee for the season long before the season is even set to begin. I saw Lee, a team captain, take on even more of a leadership role that season, dedicating himself more than ever to the team. Sure, he was missed on the field, but he was also invaluable off of the field, and he worked his butt off to come back better than ever the following season.
It was that injury that caused Lee to drop to the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, where he was nabbed by Dallas. Lee established himself as one of the, if not THE, best linebackers in the game. But, he also established himself as something else: incredibly unlucky and unable to stay healthy.
The shame of it is, there’s almost nothing Lee can do about it. You can be the strongest guy in the world, but if your knee twists the wrong way, you can kiss your ACL goodbye. Lee isn’t in the same class as former Cowboys wideout Miles Austin, who seemed to have the most fragile hamstrings in the world. No, most of Lee’s injuries have been of the “bad luck” variety than the true “injury-prone” type.
That being said, in this day and age of medicine, there’s no reason to count out Sean Lee. The guy is as dedicated and hard-working as they come. He’s beloved by teammates and fans alike, not just for his great play on the field, but for his leadership and work ethic as well.
Lee is still a Nittany Lion fan favorite, because of those traits. After news of Lee’s latest injury broke, I received texts from college friends who are Eagles, Giants and Redskins fans, all passing along their sincere condolences. Even though he now wears a star on his helmet, they still love the guy, because it’s impossible not to like and respect Sean Lee. He’s everything that you want in a football player. And that’s exactly what makes his time in the NFL so devastating, because he deserves better.
I’ve heard a lot of chatter from Cowboys fans that it’s time to cut Lee and to move on and that he’ll never be a guy that can be counted on. And that may very well be true, and that opinion isn’t without a sound base. But for me, I’m not willing to count the guy out until he literally cannot play football anymore. I’ll even take 12-13 games of Sean Lee a season over 16 games of almost anyone else.
For the time being, there’s no point in dwelling over the injury just like there’s no point in crying over spilt milk, because there’s nothing that can be done. But don’t be so quick to count out Lee. I’ve seen him come back from this before, and I’m willing to bet that he can come back from it again.