“After 11 seasons with the Cowboys, linebacker Sean Lee tells ESPN he is retiring,” Archer tweeted. “Injuries marked his career, but he was a two-time Pro Bowler and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2016 and the unquestioned leader of the defense.”
Lee made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016. The Cowboys linebacker played in nine games last season and missed significant time with injuries in two of the last three years. During a March press conference, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy noted the Cowboys were “still in discussions” with Lee about his future, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota.
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The Cowboys Are ‘Open’ to Adding Lee to the Coaching Staff
There is a chance Lee could remain with the Cowboys but in a different role. According to CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker, the Cowboys are “open to carving out” a coaching spot for Lee.
“Should Sean Lee decide to forego time away from #NFL football and choose to join the #Cowboys coaching staff in some capacity, I’m told the team is open to carving out a role for him,” Walker said on Twitter. “He’d be an asset there.”
Even before the recent news, McCarthy has been vocal about how Lee would be a good coach. McCarthy admitted he left the door open for Lee to join the coaching staff whenever he retired.
“If you’re dumb enough to get into coaching, we should definitely talk,” McCarthy recalled a conversation he had with Lee back in December, per Inside the Star.
Lee on Football: ‘It Changed My Life’
The Cowboys released a heartfelt message from Lee announcing his retirement. Lee thanked the Cowboys, fans, Jones family and even made a self-deprecating jab by giving the athletic training staff a shout-out. Lee told the Cowboys athletic trainers that they, “earned your money working with me” indirectly touching on the numerous injuries he battled throughout his career.
“Whenever I’m near a field, the smell brings me back to when I first started playing, pulling on a helmet, trying on those shoulder pads, that perfect tackle,” Lee said in a statement. “To think of the journey now, experiencing things I never thought possible with the men and women who make this game what it is, I’m beyond grateful. Thank you, Cowboys Nation. It has been my honor.”
Dallas heads into the 2021 season with questions surrounding the linebacker position. The Cowboys are hoping Jaylon Smith can bounce back with new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The team added former Falcons linebacker Keanu Neal who is expected to also spend time at safety. It would not be a surprise if the Cowboys address the position in the draft. As for Lee, the announcement was just made official, but the linebacker previously sounded like a player who understood his body could no longer hold up to the rigors of an NFL season.
“I love this team,” Lee noted in January at the end of last season, per USA Today. “I love this organization. I love playing the game. As you get older, it is what it is: you get older and you question things. 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. I’ve been so lucky to be part of this. I love all my teammates. To be able to play has been a complete dream. And to give it up is not something that’s easy. You want to win a Super Bowl. You love playing, you love practicing day in and day out. It’s a harder decision than I thought it would be. So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens, and I’ll take some time. But I’ve been so, so lucky and so blessed.”