FRISCO, Texas – In his first six years in the league, Sean Lee missed 38 games due to injury, including both Cowboys playoff games during the 2014 season he sat out following knee surgery.
The team's final game that season was a divisional-round thriller: a 26-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
"That was probably one of the toughest games from an injury standpoint that I dealt with," Lee said. "Anytime you play Green Bay in the playoffs, that's a game you want to be a part of. And probably looking back, of the games I missed, that's one of the games I regret not playing in."
Two years later, the Cowboys will meet the Packers again in the second round of the NFC playoffs, this time at AT&T Stadium this Sunday. This time, Lee's healthy and ready to go.
During the regular season he didn't miss a defensive snap until the team decided to rest him in the Jan. 1 finale at Philadelphia – though he kept his helmet on while watching from the sideline.
"As soon as they play the Rocky theme song, you've got to find a way to get me out there," he joked.
"It was the right thing to do. The coaches, as much as I wanted to play, it was the best thing for me I think physically and the best thing for the team."
Lee's durability and production made him an Associated Press All-Pro selection for the first time in his career – a deserved reward after his Pro Bowl snub three weeks ago.
But the veteran linebacker credits his teammates, including his defensive line for freeing him up to make plays from the weak side.
"It's obviously an unbelievable honor," he said. "There's so many great players in this league. But what I'm most proud about is playing with this group defensively. Our defense is about the group, how we play as a unit, how we run to the football. So for me, I feel so blessed and it's really a reflection of the unit."
The defense will be tested by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' dynamic offense. They held Green Bay to 16 points in an Oct. 16 victory at Lambeau Field, though the Packer have since won seven straight games and averaged 31.9 points in that stretch, including 38 in last Sunday's wild-card win over the New York Giants.
Lee always prepares for a challenge. And he's excited for his first career postseason opportunity.
"This is something I've always wanted to be part of," he said. "This is something that you work back from injuries. During a lot of the injuries I've had, I said, 'Hey, I have this great opportunity ahead of me to play on this great team with these great teammates. So that was really what motivated me during the time I was injured."