Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys still careful with Lee, McFadden soon, McClain another week

Injured Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) and running back Darren McFadden (20) have yet to return to practice.
Injured Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) and running back Darren McFadden (20) have yet to return to practice. AP

Cowboys running back Darren McFadden continues to work on the side, rehabbing from a hamstring injury.

But coach Jason Garrett is hopeful that McFadden can be activated off the physically unable to perform list in “a few days,” and finally show how much more he has left.

Even though owner Jerry Jones has publicly expressed limited concern about McFadden, more questions about his health seem to be raised on a daily basis. He has had issues with both hamstrings since signing with the Cowboys in March, after all.

Additionally, McFadden has a history of injury issues, missing 29 career games with 15 different injuries. Being sidelined so far in training camp hasn’t made those go away, either.

“Repetitions matter,” Garrett said. “They matter to everybody, understanding the system and nuances, getting your feet back underneath you, or playing next to the guy you haven’t played next to before. The communication and the feel you have to have with each other. He needs the work.”

McFadden has been projected to carry a portion of the running back load, along with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar. But, if McFadden continues to be slowed, it could force the Cowboys to look outside the organization for additional help.

In other injury news, linebacker Rolando McClain (knee) is another “week or two away” from practicing, Garrett said.

Anthony Hitchens has worked at middle linebacker his absence.

And while linebacker Sean Lee has been on the field practicing since the first day of training camp, the Cowboys have been careful with him. Lee, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has held out of all team drills and only recently started doing 7-on-7 work.

He has been cleared by the doctors to practice since mini camp.

Lee has yet to play a full season injury free since he joined the Cowboys in 2010, so the coaches and athletic trainers are taking their time to make sure he is not ready for camp but can last 16 games.

“You certainly want to be mindful of a player’s history,” Garrett said. “But I think more important than that is the recent history. Sean’s done a great job coming back off his injury. And he’s had a great offseason. His rehab has really come along I think smoothly and he’s probably ahead of schedule. But the biggest thing with all these guys who are coming back, you don’t want them to take a huge step backward because you pushed them too quickly. You want to be mindful about when you really need them to play and when you need them to be their best. And you want to use this time, and make these kind of incremental steps forward and then over time, you’ve made a bigger leap. Rather than trying to get too aggressive too early and then all of a sudden he’s two weeks behind and then you’re scrambling again.

“Sean’s a great worker. He cares a great deal about this game and being as good as he can be at it. So he’s almost one of the guys that you have to dial back more. You have to kind of get in his way and be the roadblock and say, ‘Sean, here’s what we’re going to do today.’ It’s going to be individual. It’s going to some stuff in seven on seven and nothing else. And then you kind of work through the next day and hopefully over time you get him where he needs to be. We have to handle it right. He’s got to handle it right and we’re confident we can do that.”