FRISCO, Texas — After 11 seasons with all the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Sean Lee has decided to retire.
A second-round pick in 2010 from Penn State, Lee was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2015, 2016) and the unquestioned leader of the defense for the majority of his career.
“It has been a complete honor,” Lee told ESPN. “I have been blessed to play for the unbelievable Jones family, with such fantastic teammates and coaches that I love like brothers. I loved every minute playing and attempted to pour my heart and soul into helping and winning my teammates at any cost.
“Obviously the accidents were frustrating would be an understatement, but the support I received through them all was humbling and also the course I learned battling adversity will last a lifetime. There are always regrets, but I’m proud of what I was able to achieve and I abandon this game thankful.”
The 34-year-old led the Cowboys in tackles in 2011 and 2015-17, and he owns five of the top seven undertake games in team history, including a listing 22 vs. the Giants at 2016. He also had 14 career interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns; 5 fumble recoveries; 2 forced fumbles; 59 tackles for loss; and 4 sacks.
He averaged 8.4 tackles per game, the most one of the top 10 tacklers in team history. Darren Woodson, who is the franchise leader with 1,350, averaged 7.6 tackles each game.
Lee missed time with hamstring, wrist, toe, neck, knee and core-muscle injuries in addition to concussions. He also missed the 2014 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He played just nine games last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery in September but was feeling better at the end of the year and contemplated a return for a 12th season.
His impact off the area was just as good as it was on the field.
“As an individual he’s among the most selfless people that I’ve ever been around,” linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said after this season. “The dude just really loves the sport, and he is going to do what’s best for the game. He is extremely smart, he understands it like no one I have been about. He’s just a phenomenal individual — his character bleeds off and is infectious.
“He is like an older brother , and I understand he would like to see everybody around him succeed and that’s precisely what is unique about him. If other men and women are succeeding, [if] the team is succeeding? He is just as happy as when he had been out there doing it. I think that it’s special to have a man like him around. They don’t come around very often.”
Lee’s decision continues an offseason change for the Cowboys in longevity and leadership as defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, a nine-year veteran, also elected to retire along with the team proceeded from 16-year long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.
With Lee and Crawford not returning, DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round choice in 2014, is your longest-tenured defensive player on the Cowboys. Randy Gregory, a second-rounder the next calendar year, is the second.