FRISCO, Texas – To say Sean Lee loves football is the understatement of the decade. Maybe the century.
"I joke to my wife that I'm addicted to it at times, to be able to run and hit, practice every day," he says. "And so I think physically at times you're like, 'You've been though a lot,' and then I get out there and I feel great and I'm able to help and that pushes me to come back a lot of times. And last year that won out."
Lee has been living in the moment this season, not focusing on his football future. Now that the Cowboys have been eliminated from playoff contention, the 11-year veteran says he'll take some time to think about what's next.
Lee took the same approach last year and decided to return on a one-year deal. This time around?
"I this team, I love this organization, love playing the game, and as you get older, it is what it is. You get older and you question things," he said after the Cowboys' season-ending 23-19 loss to the Giants. "I still think I have a lot to give, but at the same point, you acknowledge as you get older physically, things change. I'll take time. I'll talk to the family and really think it through."
The 34-year-old linebacker has battled injuries throughout his career, and 2020 was one of his biggest challenges. After offseason core muscle surgery to reattach abdominal muscles to his pelvic bone, Lee did not practice during a compressed training camp and spent the first seven games on injured reserve rehabbing with the athletic training staff.
But his role increased down the stretch. With starting middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch sidelined by an ankle injury. Lee played a season-high 50 and 30 snaps, respectively, in the Cowboys' final two games against the Giants and Eagles.
Lee is set to be an unrestricted free agent this March. So is backup Joe Thomas, who played well as a starter when Vander Esch and Lee were sidelined early in the season. The Cowboys will have to address their linebacker depth if Lee and/or Thomas don't return. It might be a focus in free agency and/or the draft regardless.
In deciding whether to return for a 12th season, Lee said he'll weigh several factors.
"You can't make decisions in-season or right after the season. You need a perspective of getting away from it further," he said. "And you think about yourself physically, you think about yourself mentally, and then role-wise can you still help the team, can you do it on the field and play a role where you know that you can make sure you're helping the team win. So you have to check all those boxes and know it 100% before you make a commitment to come back.
"That will be the process I go through. Can I help us? Physically, can I continue to do this? Mentally, am I ready? You really look deep into those before you make a commitment."
It's not something he plans to rush.
"It's a harder decision than I thought it would be, so we'll see what happens," he said. "I'll take some time. But I've been so lucky and so blessed."