Dallas Cowboys: Sean Lee retirement is a bittersweet reminder

Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

This week, the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night, injecting the league with a whole new class of potential future stars. But on Monday, one Dallas Cowboys legend decided to end his career just as others prepare to begin theirs.

On Monday, it was widely reported that veteran linebacker Sean Lee has decided to retire after 11 years in the NFL, all of them spent with the Cowboys. The 34-year old is coming off yet another injury-plagued season where he was limited to just nine games due to injury.

And it’s injuries that plagued Lee’s career both in college at Penn State and as a professional. One of the main reasons he fell to the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, where the Cowboys traded up to pick him 55th overall, was due to him suffering significant knee injuries while playing for the Nittany Lions.

Numerous injuries continued to plague the talented Mr. Lee throughout his NFL career as well. In 2014 he missed the entire season due to a torn ACL. In fact, Lee only played a full 16-game season for the Cowboys once and that was in 2019. In all, he missed a whopping 58 games of a possible 176 regular-season contests over the span of his pro career.

When on the field, Lee was an All-Pro talent. He was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2015. And Lee earned both first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors the following season as well.

In fact, 2016 was his best year as a professional by far. Lee played 15 games that season for only the second time and registered a career-high 145 combined tackles and 12 tackles for loss.

The news of Lee’s retirement is a bittersweet reminder of what could have been as we will all wonder just how good he could have been if he was able to stay healthy all those years. Many suspect, just as I do, Lee would have been welcomed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day if things had turned out differently.

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Sean Lee ends his career with the Dallas Cowboys ranked eighth all-time in most solo tackles (521) in franchise history. He also ranks first in assisted tackles (281) and fourth in tackles for loss (60). According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Lee also has the Cowboys record for most tackles in a game (22) and most solo tackles in a game (17).