Cowboys’ defense gets boost with return of linebacker Sean Lee


FRISCO, Texas — A Dallas Cowboys defense that is ranked fourth in yards per game and second in points per game will welcome back their leader in weak-side linebacker Sean Lee on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Lee missed the last three games with a hamstring strain suffered Sept. 23 against the Seattle Seahawks but went through two full practices this week and is not on the injury report.

“If you’re ready, if you’re 100 percent, you play,” Lee said. “I’ve missed a lot of time already so I’m trying not to miss much more, trying to play as many games as I can. If you’re 100 percent and you can play, you need to play and I need to play. I haven’t played a lot this year, so I need to get out there and get snaps, continue to improve and hopefully help this defense.”

Unlike recent years, the Cowboys defense was able to withstand Lee’s absence, winning two of the three games and giving up just 26 points in the last two games. Jaylon Smith took over Lee’s role in calling the defenses, while rookie Leighton Vander Esch started at weak-side linebacker.

All three will split playing time against Washington.

“I think there are snaps for everybody,” said Lee, who missed five games last year with hamstring injuries. “I think we’ll all be out there trying to make plays together at some point. It’s good to have a lot of guys who can be out there making plays and it will help me getting back, helping everybody stay fresh all of the time.”

Jason Garrett said Lee has “had a good couple of days of practice.” The Cowboys have the bye week after playing Washington but that will not affect what the Cowboys do with Lee. He has started every game he has played since 2011, his second season.

“We have no hard and fast rules about if you’re injured and you keep your job or lose your job,” Garrett said. “We evaluate each situation individually. Each of the players who have gone in in that absence, they have played well. Leighton’s played more snaps. Jaylon’s played more snaps. Those guys handled the snaps well at linebacker. …

“You want to keep those guys alive in a role that can help our football team. Having said that, ultimately you make the decision that’s best for the football team. If a guy has been out and coming back and he’s healthy and ready to go and we think he gives us the best chance, we’ll put him back in that role.”

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