Cowboys stalwart Sean Lee retires in injury frustration

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Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is hanging up his cleats for good after 11 seasons with the storied franchise.

“I was privileged to wear the Cowboys star. We want to play forever. But today, it’s my time to walk away,” Lee, 34, said in a letter announcing his retirement on Monday.

The two-time Pro Bowler (2015, 2016), who was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2016, was a pivotal piece of the Cowboys’ defensive identity. He led the team in tackles in 2011, and from 2015-17.

While speaking with ESPN, Lee cited injuries that ultimately contributed to his decision to retire. Throughout his career, Lee has been sidelined with a number of injuries, including his right big toe, left wrist, hamstring and multiple concussions. He missed the entire 2014 season due to a torn ACL — an injury he suffered two times prior to his NFL career.

“To say the injuries were frustrating would be an understatement, but the support I received through them all was humbling and the lessons I learned battling adversity will last a lifetime,” Lee said. “There are always regrets, but I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish and I leave this game grateful.”

In his statement, Lee reminisced on his early days in Dallas, and thanked the franchise for his decade-plus tenure.

“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. 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. I has been my honor.

“To the fans, you lifted me up when I needed it most,” Lee wrote. I didn’t want to let you down. If there’s a regret, it’s that I never helped bring a championship back home, because you deserve it so much,” he wrote.

Lee finished the 2020-21 season with 20 tackles in nine games after he underwent a  sports hernia surgery in September.

He finishes his NFL career with 802 combined tackles, 30 passes defensed and 14 interceptions in 118 games played.

The Pittsburgh native was a second-round pick in 2010 out of Penn State.

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