IRVING, Texas — Oft-injured Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee didn’t even make it through the first offseason practice without another setback in a career filled with them.
Lee went down with a left knee injury during the team portion of what was supposed to be a noncontact workout Tuesday. Coach Jason Garrett said the former Penn State star was getting an MRI later in the day.
A source familiar with the situation told ESPN that the Cowboys believed the injury was likely a torn ACL.
The fifth-year middle linebacker went to the ground with rookie offensive lineman Zack Martin on top of him and didn’t get up right away. He had to be helped off the field by trainers, screaming in anger at cameramen lining the entrance to the training room.
The 27-year-old Lee has missed 15 of 32 games the past two seasons and has never played a full a season in his four years in the league. He missed five games last year with hamstring and neck injuries.
“Unfortunately, he’s had to deal with a few of these things but he’s as mentally tough an individual as I’ve ever been around,” Garrett said. “So whatever the circumstances are he always puts his best foot forward and strives to be his best. Don’t anticipate this being any different.”
Lee, who wasn’t in the locker room when it was open to reporters Tuesday, tore a ligament in his right knee during spring practice at Penn State in 2008 and sat out that season before finishing his college career a year later. The Cowboys drafted him in the second round in 2010.
After a pair of mostly healthy seasons his first two years, Lee sustained a season-ending toe injury in the sixth game in 2012. He finished the season on the inactive list again last year with a neck injury.
Despite playing just 46 games over four seasons, he leads all linebackers with 11 interceptions. He was the team’s leading tackler when he started 15 games in 2011.
“Sean’s been as committed and hard-working a teammate as I’ve ever been around,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “I love the guy like a brother. He’s the epitome of what you want in a football player.”
The holdovers on the Dallas roster who filled in at times for Lee last year are Justin Durant and second-year player DeVonte Holloman. Rookie Anthony Hitchens, a fourth-round pick, could play there as well.
Pouncey returns for Steelers
PITTSBURGH — At first glance, it didn’t look like much, center Maurkice Pouncey taking his spot in the middle of the offensive line and snapping the ball to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
But for Pouncey, more than eight months removed from tearing both the ACL and MCL in his right knee during the Steelers’ season opener last September, it was a big step. Pouncey joined his teammates Tuesday for the first time after knee surgery cost him all but eight snaps of the 2013 season.
“Yeah, it was my first time doing live action,” Pouncey said. “I didn’t have any restrictions. It was pretty neat to dry-block some guys and finish on some plays, it was pretty awesome. So, it was great. There were no problems at all.”
The three-time Pro Bowler was expected to anchor a young offensive line last season. It never happened. Minutes into the opener against Tennessee, Steelers guard David DeCastro dived into the back of Pouncey’s legs, derailing the direction of an entire season.
“I’ve never been hit like that,” Pouncey said, quickly adding that he hoped to leave all the injury talk in the past. “I think it was more mental than anything, getting my confidence back. There’s only so much you can do to be ready, but then you have to go out and do it.”
Maybe it’s why Pouncey was even more fired up than usual as he took the field with his teammates. The sight of Pouncey’s No. 53 jersey in front of him was certainly a welcome one for Roethlisberger.
“It was great,” Roethlisberger said. “As a friend and a guy who has worked so hard to get back out here, it was fun to see him back in the pads.”