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June 03, 2014

Cowboys absolved by NFLPA regarding Sean Lee injury but team was told to do better

The NFL has no billed the Cowboys following an investigation into their organized team activities practices after last week’s season ending knee injury to linebacker Sean Lee.

 The NFL and the Players Association decided the Cowboys didn’t commit a practice violation during the non-contact workouts.

 However, the league did offer up some pointers to reinforce how the OTA workouts should be handled.

 "They have evaluated a couple of our practice sessions and given us some pointers, but I don't think we've done anything (wrong)," executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the team’s annual golf tournament on Tuesday. "Jason (Garrett) has always done a good job of playing by the rules and I think obviously they looked at that and say that we were but at the same time I think we all have to take notes and get better. We need to do it better and hopefully do it to where you don't have anything unfortunate happen." 

Jones wouldn’t say what those points were but it’s clear that the league doesn’t want players on the ground and other players on top of them.

 It’s in the collective bargaining agreement that there will be no contact in OTAs or minicamp. Players are not in pads for a reason and teams are subject to fans and lost practice days for any violations.

 "More than anything it's just remembering that they are OTAs and there's a standard that they recommend," Jones said. "In some cases, any time you get men who are competitive then the intensity level can rise and it's up to our coaches and up to them to keep everything in check ... We're all on the same page to keep these guys healthy." 

Jones officially acknowledged that Lee suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the first day of OTA practices May 27. But video revealed that his leg buckled before he was engaged by guard Zack Martin on the play.

 Garrett said he reiterates to his team every day about practicing the right way and staying off the ground. And they Cowboys have slowed down the pace of practice this week after last week’s injury.

But it remains an ongoing process because there is a fine line between competing hard and practicing without contact.

 "We don't want the contact," Garrett said. "We don't want guys going to the ground. We've evaluated that play. We think that the injury happened before the contact, but again we don't want it to be that physical. What happens on the first day of OTAs is a lot of guys are excited about playing football, so we instruct them before we get out on the field for the first time as to what we’re looking for – make sure we’re handling practice the right way with a lot of enthusiasm. We have a lot of good guys on our football team, guys who love to play football and have a lot of passion for it. I believe my job is to motivate players. I believe our coaches’ job is to motivate players. So we try to motivate players who love to play, and sometimes you get an atmosphere where some guys are overzealous. So we have to constantly go back and tell them what we want.”

 Clarence Hill


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