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58) Can Sean Lee Overcome The Injury Prone Label?


IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

As we count down the days to camp, the writers of will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 58 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the leader of the Dallas defense:

58) Can Sean Lee overcome the injury-prone label?

Fifty-eight. That's the tackle total Sean Lee finished with just six games into last season. After leading the team with 131 tackles in 2011, Lee was on pace to top 150, before his season was cut short.

Lee's 2012 injury has been a major talking point since he went down in October with a severe case of turf toe. Reporters mobbed him several weeks ago at the Reliant Home Run Derby to discuss his injury status.

For his part, Lee was a voice of extreme confidence, asserting that he'd be ready to start if the season started right now. He's been running with the first team linebackers in OTAs, so his statements seem validated.

There's no question Lee is a huge piece of this defense entering his fourth season – especially with the move to a 4-3 scheme that just might put a little more pressure on him to be excellent.

It would be easy to write off last season as a fluke, especially since Lee went as far as to undergo surgery to repair the problem with his toe. But there was also the dislocated wrist in 2010 that forced him out of one game, and the minor injuries that hampered him to start his rookie season. [embedded_ad]

It's not quite as bad as it seems, however. He has started 21 of 32 possible games since he earned the starting job in 2011. That's not exactly great, but it's not as bad as it could be – especially for a position that takes as much of a beating as middle linebacker.

Even some of the more durable middle linebackers, such as Patrick Willis or the recently-retired Brian Urlacher, miss two to three games on occasion. It'd be ideal if Lee could be on hand for all 16 starts, but even 12 or 13 would make a world of difference.

The Cowboys just need to hope he's up to that test.

Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 58:

  • Mike Hegman wore No. 58 for Dallas from the time he was taken as a seventh round draft pick in 1975 until his retirement in 1987. Hegman started 112 games for the Cowboys after eventually winning the job at strongside linebacker.
  • Arguably Hegman's most famous play came in Super Bowl XIII – a 35-31 loss to the Steelers. Hegman stripped Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw and returned the fumble 37 yards for a touchdown that put Dallas up, 14-7.
  • The Cowboys' current No. 58 is no stranger to Dallas. Taylor Reed, from Beaumont, Texas, had a productive four-year career at SMU before signing a rookie free agent deal with the Cowboys after the draft.
  • The Cowboys have played in a league-leading 58 postseason games – four more than second-place Pittsburgh and 10 more than the third-place New York Giants.
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