GRAPEVINE -- Inside linebacker Sean Lee said he modeled his game after Dan Connor, one of the seven free agents the Dallas Cowboys signed in the off-season.
Connor is expected to compete with second-year player Bruce Carter for a spot opposite Lee, the Cowboys' leading tackler last year.
"He was a guy that I modeled myself after in college and a guy that I really looked up to," Lee said Wednesday night at a charity event at the Gaylord Texan. "He's a guy that's an extremely hard worker. He's a guy that leads by example every day. He had a great career at Penn State. He's a really good linebacker and a complete player. I'm excited to play with him again."
Lee and Connor played together at Penn State in 2007, when Connor set the school's career tackles record. But Lee is also optimistic about Carter, the Cowboys' second-round draft pick a year ago who will go into this season fully recovered from knee surgery in his last year of college at North Carolina.
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"He looks great," Lee said. "We've been working out together at the facility. The knee isn't an issue. I think he's ready to go. I think he did a great job coming off a knee injury and transitioning to the NFL. He's very talented. We need him to step up for us, and I think he understands that. I think he's going to put the work in. It's a matter of time until he becomes a very good football player."
The emergence of Lee and Carter, combined with the signing of Connor, likely mean free-agent veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James won't be back. But Lee said either player could still help the team.
"Brook's a guy that I think is underrated and still can do a lot of good things for a football team," Lee said. "Obviously, from a leadership standpoint, from a football standpoint, we'd love to have him back. But obviously, there's a business involved with that. We've got to let things play themselves out."
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who along with Mavericks guard Jason Terry headlined the charity event -- the Muscle Team Bash to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association -- said the Cowboys had "probably the best" free agency period in his 10 years in Dallas.
"When you look at our team, you kind of circle areas of concern or you want to see addressed, and those are all the ones that we did," he said. "I'm excited about those guys. Being able to meet them, they're all great guys."
The Cowboys signed seven free agents and re-signed receiver Kevin Ogletree. The team failed only to get a backup tight end following the departure of Martellus Bennett, but Witten said he is confident in John Phillips.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760