Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee warmed up and was declared active for Sunday’s regular-season finale against Washington.
But in a span of 30 minutes, Lee went from a possible $2 million escalator bonus for next season that would have impacted the team’s 2016 salary cap to being inactive and watching from the sidelines.
Lee had to play in 80 percent of snaps this season in order to bump his $3 million base salary to $5 million. He said after the game that the decision was his and that he felt trying to force things wouldn’t have helped his team.
“It was absolute — 100 percent a hamstring injury,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was going to be effective to help the football team.”
Lee said he was hurt Thursday in 7-on-7 drills and blamed the injury on not warming up enough.
“The problem was that it was so close to the game,” Lee said. “If I had a couple of more days, then maybe I could have played.
“If today was the Super Bowl, then maybe you try the best you can to get out there, but I would have been running at about 75 percent. I hadn’t tested it at all since Thursday and you know that if it bites at all, it’s probably not going to warm up.”
It was absolute — 100 percent a hamstring injury. I didn’t feel like I was going to be effective to help the football team.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee
Owner Jerry Jones said Lee was under no pressure to sit out.
“Well, Sean is basically, his value to our team we have to protect, and he’s the first one to want to protect that,” Jones said. “So we wouldn’t under any circumstance put him out there with maybe a chance to really limit him going as far as into next year. We just wouldn’t do that.
“We wouldn’t under any circumstances have visited with any of our players about bonuses or things like that.”
2016 opponents set
As the regular ended Sunday, the Cowboys’ 2016 schedule was finalized.
Outside of the regular six-game home-and-home series in the NFC East, Dallas will have home games against Cincinnati, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago and Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys will have road trips to San Francisco, Green Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Minnesota.
The Vikings, coached by former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, will open U.S. Bank Stadium next season.
Both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sunday next season, making the likelihood of at least one holiday road game probable.
The Cowboys have played four times on Christmas, including 2010 when they traveled to Arizona for the only NFL game that day.
Including that 27-26 loss to the Cardinals, Dallas has lost its past three Christmas Day games.
For the second time in his career, running back Darren McFadden surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season. He finished fourth overall in the NFL with 1,089 yards.
His second carry of the game, a 6-yard run, triggered a $300,000 bonus built into his contract. But McFadden’s day was also marred by a costly fumble in the fourth quarter.
McFadden was headed for an apparent touchdown but fumbled short of the goal line, and the ball bounced out of the end zone for a Redskins’ touchback. McFadden lost three fumbles on the year — all against Washington.
But that didn’t diminish his other accomplishments in Jones’ mind.
“I was particularly impressed with McFadden at the end of the year and the way he has come on,” Jones said. “He has competed right in the top four or five guys we’ve got on the football team, so I feel good about what we can do in the running game.”
McFadden’s only other 1000-yard season was in 2010 with the Raiders when he rushed for 1,157 yards and seven scores.
▪ Strong safety J.J. Wilcox recorded Dallas’ first safety since Carlos Polk blocked a punt out of the end zone against San Francisco in 2008.
▪ Dallas did not allow an opponent to score a touchdown on its opening possession this season.
▪ Safety Jeff Heath had his first career carry on a fake punt in the second quarter. The conversion led to Jason Witten’s 4-yard TD catch.
▪ Witten had 58 yards receiving to put him over 700 for the season. It was Witten’s 12th consecutive season of at least 700 yards receiving, taking over the top spot from Tony Gonzalez (11).