IRVING, Texas – The Dallas defense gained another key piece on Thursday, as Sean Lee returned to practice for the first time since suffering a concussion last weekend.
Lee went out in the first quarter of the loss to the Saints after he took a blow to the head from tight end Benjamin Watson. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has been positive about Lee's recovery throughout the week while he undergoes concussion protocol.
"He's going through it, and everything is optimistic," Garrett said. "If he practices today he'll be limited, but we're optimistic with how he has responded to everything."
Lee was in fact on the practice field Thursday morning, going through pre-practice drills with the rest of the linebacker unit. Per Garrett, it won't be a surprise to see him categorized on Thursday's injury report, but it's a good sign for his availability this weekend against New England.
Garrett said it's too early to project that far in advance, but all signs are positive so far.
"Just where he is – but again, he was feeling good after the game on Sunday night," he said. "So we're optimistic about his progress as the week goes on."
Getting Sean Lee back on the field brought the Cowboys' absence tally down to four – James Hanna, Brice Butler, Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory.
Both Hanna and Butler are still coping with the injuries they suffered against the Saints. Hanna left the game with an ankle injury, while Butler hurt his hamstring while reeling in a 67-yard reception.
Bryant and Gregory are still rehabbing the injuries they suffered in Week 1.
With Lee practicing, Gregory now looks like the only major absence on the Cowboys' defense heading into Week 5. Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy both practiced for the first time Wednesday, and they were back at it Thursday after a productive debut.
"It was good to see those guys out there," Garrett said. "They didn't get a full, full workload in terms of their reps, all throughout practice. We want to kind of get them acclimated a little bit, but each of those guys had a good day. I think they looked comfortable out there."
Garrett also updated Bryant's rehab routine when he was asked what the All-Pro wide out is capable of doing while he recovers from foot surgery. He said Bryant it still trying to avoid putting too much weight on the broken foot, but he is able to condition.
"He has not been out running routes or doing anything like that up to this point," Garrett said. "But there are different ways to run where you can kind of get yourself in as good a shape as possible leading up to it. So he's been involved in all that."