ARLINGTON, Texas– There were several players who didn't finish the season due to a variety of injuries.
For Sean Lee, his absence cost him $2 million.
But unlike the pregame speculation that the Cowboys sat Lee simply to avoid a roster bonus had the linebacker played in 80 percent of the defensive snaps this season, both the team and Lee dismissed the notion.
"It was me who decided not to play," Lee said after the game. "I didn't feel like I would be effective to help the football team. As I kept warming up (before the game), it didn't feel better. I decided to sit. To me, it's about being effective in the game. I'm not going to disrespect my coaches and be out there not playing the right way."
Lee also said the terms of his contract and bonus structure was never mentioned before the game.
"They didn't discuss anything with me," Lee reiterated. "The decision came down to whether I could help the team or not. I'm blessed to be on this team. My main concern is finding a way for us to be a better team for next season. For me, I wasn't going to be effective, so I had to stay off the field."
Money aside, owner Jerry Jones said taking care of Lee and his health on a long-term basis is always the first priority.
"His value to our team, we have to protect, and he's the first one to want to protect that," Jones said of Lee. "So we wouldn't under any circumstance put him out there with maybe a chance to really limit him going as far as into next year. We just wouldn't do that. (And) we wouldn't under any circumstances have visited with any of our players about bonuses or things like that."
Heading into Sunday's game, Lee had played in 82 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps. But after missing all 63 of Washington's offensive plays Sunday, Lee's number dipped down to 77 percent. When the Cowboys re-signed Lee to an extension back in 2013, there were several playing-time incentives in the contract to protect the team if Lee suffered more injuries. Being on the field for at least 80 percent of the snaps during a season was one that could've earned Lee a roster bonus of $2 million.
Earlier this season, the linebacker suffered a concussion against the Eagles and then missed the following week against the Buccaneers.
Under NFL rules, the Cowboys would not be allowed to just give the bonus to Lee in good faith, but could always restructure the contract, something they did before the season with Jeremy Mincey, who received $500,000 despite falling short of his 2014 playing-time percentage.