IRVING -- A rib injury kept defensive end Sean Lissemore from getting the most out of minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs).
But it doesn't look as though it will have him behind when the Dallas Cowboys get to training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
"Is he going to be behind for where he wanted to be in training camp? Yes," defensive line coach Brian Baker said. "But is he going to be too far behind to compete to get one of those solid rotation roles, which is what I expect of him? No."
Entering his third year with the Cowboys, Lissemore has earned a little bit of a cushion with his coaches, who last year at this time, didn't even know him.
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Lissemore had 28 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss last season, playing nose tackle and defensive end. The production was more than Baker expected from a seventh-round pick out of William & Mary who had played in only two games in 2010 and finished on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
"Shoot, I started training camp last year not even knowing who Sean Lissemore was, other than he was some guy on our team," said Baker, who joined the staff last year with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "I didn't [scout] him in college. I didn't have a familiarity with him. I saw him so little in the season because he was hurt. And we didn't have an OTA.
"But it didn't take long for me to get to know him in training camp."
Ryan remembers thinking the same thing.
"When I first got here, I watched the tape, and he wasn't that impressive the year before," Ryan said. "Then he clearly, in my opinion, beat out the incumbent, [Igor] Olshansky, so we went in that direction. Might have turned some heads doing that. He's improved. Done an excellent job. And he's a real player."
So Lissemore at least has name recognition with his coaches. He laughed at the thought.
"I guess that's a good thing," he said.
Lissemore is expected to play both nose tackle and defensive end, but he'll get most of his work at defensive end, where he will push Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears.
Ryan doesn't believe Lissemore will be too far behind, either.
"He's been through an incredible off-season with [strength coach] Mike Woicik," Ryan said. "This guy, his body's changing, everything about him. He's so fast for the game now. He knows his assignments. He's doing a great job. The nice thing is, if we ever get in a situation where, God forbid, somebody gets hurt, Sean Lissemore can jump in any spot and be an effective starter."
So Lissemore, who had tackles in 11 consecutive games last season, ought to go into training camp with confidence.
"It's kind of frustrating to be out, but you've got to take advantage of things and look at them in a positive way," he said. "I use this as an opportunity to look at a lot of film, study a lot of players in the league who are good players at the position I'm playing, and see what they do.
"I've been in all the meetings, following everything along. Just maintaining my strength, getting the mental reps and things like that, and I'll be good to go."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760