IRVING, Texas - As banged up as this Cowboys team is right now, the bye week can't come at a better time.
Vice President Stephen Jones said Tuesday that he is expected a lot of players back from injury, but one guy who likely won't be included in that mix is middle linebacker Sean Lee.
The Cowboys' leading tackler and interception leader will likely miss next week's game against the Giants, and possible the Thanksgiving Day game with the Raiders as well.
Lee sustained a hamstring in the second quarter against the Saints Sunday night in the 49-17 loss to New Orleans.
"He's got a hamstring issue," Jones said on his weekly radio show on the 105.3 "The Fan" in Dallas. "To what extent, it'll bear out here between the MRIs and his rehab. We'll see how he progresses. I don't think it's going to be anything that's a long time, but it's probably going to be more than a week or two, and we'll go from there."
The Cowboys will welcome the bye week with open arms, considering how many injuries they've suffered in the past few weeks.
But missing Lee, will certainly be a big blow to the defense.
"He's a great player and he's done a real nice job for us," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. "But we've just got to plug some other guys in there and keep going. That's the only thing you can do."
The problem with that, however, is that Lee's backup Justin Durant also suffered a hamstring injury in the second half, playing for Lee in the middle.
Durant starts at outside linebacker in the base 4-3 defense, but has been Lee's backup in the middle. Once he went down, the Cowboys used Kyle Bosworth inside.
Look for the Cowboys to explore all options concerning the middle linebacker position, perhaps even using Ernie Sims or Bruce Carter inside. They could also try to find an available linebacker on the street, like they've done with the defensive end position.
Lee, who signed a six-year, $42 million extension back in late August, has had his share of injury issues in his career. In fact, Lee has a chance to earn as much as $51 million in this contract if he can stay relatively healthy and earn playing-time incentives.
He missed two games his rookie season in 2010 with a hamstring injury and most of a game later that year with a concussion. He also had a wrist injury in 2011 that forced him to wear a club on his hand for about a month. [embedded_ad]
Last year, Lee went on IR in late October with a toe injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss the last 10 games.
Other than Lee's injury, the Cowboys are hopeful to get a few more starters and key players back for the Nov. 24 game with the Giants. Jason Hatcher (shoulder/neck), Morris Claiborne (hamstring), Miles Austin (hamstring) and J.J. Wilcox (knee) are expected to return after each missing some games here in the last month.
Also, DeMarcus Ware (quad), Nick Hayden (ribs), Dez Bryant (back), DeMarco Murray (knee) and various other players have been battling through injuries that have slowed them down considerably and forced them to miss practice time.
Obviously this is the time the Cowboys can get healthy again and get the majority of their players back. But unfortunately for them, Sean Lee is not expected to be one of them.