IRVING, Texas – Heading into the offseason practices, there was a lot of chatter about several linebackers.
Sean Lee's health was a question and unfortunately for him and the Cowboys, that came to fruition in the first OTA practice when he went down with a torn ACL.
Bruce Carter's progress, Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman's learning curve and the maturation process of rookie Anthony Hitchens have all been discussed.
So who was the story after Monday's OTA practice here at Valley Ranch?
Well, that'd be Justin Durant, of course.
Considered by many as the forgotten guy of the linebacking corps, Durant now finds himself in the middle of the action – literally.
Durant was the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker during Monday's OTA practice with Sean Lee now out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Durant was the primary backup for Lee last year but also sustained some injuries as well. He missed four of the last six games with hamstring injuries last season and only finished with 30 tackles in 11 games.
But this is another opportunity for the veteran linebacker, who has played seemingly every linebacker position during his seven-year career.
"I'm comfortable. We all basically cross-train in all the meetings to be able to step in just in case something like this happens," said Durant, who said he played two years of middle linebacker in Jacksonville. "I've been studying. I was ready to go. Whatever they tell me to do, I do it." [embedded_ad]
When asked if he's excited about the opportunity, Durant couldn't go there, considering why the position is even available.
"Sean going down hurt – it hurt me seriously to my core. I know how much work that guy puts in and how dedicated he was to it," Durant said of Lee. "I don't look at it as an opportunity. I just look at it as a guy to step up and fill some big shoes."
Listed at 6-2, 228, Durant was prepared to play outside linebacker, but said this switch won't have him changing his body type too much.
"We can really play all the spots," said Durant, who said awareness of the entire defense is the bigger adjustment more than taking on bigger linemen. "I just have to know a lot what's going on in the defense and where everyone is going to be at all times."
And knowing his position is even more crucial these days, especially with the young pups such as Holloman, Hitchens and Wilber asking him questions all the time.
"I've never really been the old guy before," Durant joked. "I just try to help the guys out whenever I can with the little things. I've played more than all of them combined. It's just another step in my career."