Cowboys Missing Key Components

Keeping Lee healthy and on the field is key to the Cowboys’ success.

IRVING – The Cowboys begin a mandatory minicamp this week and while coaches always preach that they want to only talk about the players who are actually present, there is an important story line that features a handful of Cowboys who probably won’t participate – and one Cowboy who remains purposefully in limbo.

Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Barry Church are all rehabbing from surgeries. When last seen, they spent Thursday serving as Cowboys “coaches” at Cowboys U, a charity event at Valley Ranch that features a touch football game for area high schoolers.

Lee was a Pro Bowler last year but says his most prominent memory of 2014 is the Cowboys’ 4-12 record. He’s not participating in OTA’s after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee in April and won’t work in this week’s mini-camp. But Lee is counting down the days till he’s back on the field with his teammates. “I’d be shocked if I wasn’t out there (on the field participating in training camp in Oxnard in about six weeks) Lee said. “I think I’m right on pace to be out there.”

Church is in the same boat after breaking his arm last season. Scandrick is further ahead of them and has been doing some walk-through stuff in OTA’s.

The Dallas defense can have a completely different look to it when Lee, Church, and Scandrick are participating. And that could go to a different “on-paper” level all together when middle linebacker Rolando McClain shows up. But that hasn’t been the case for the three OTA’s so far and the club isn’t certain McLean will be in town this week even though these mini camp sessions are mandatory.

However owner Jerry Jones makes it sound as if McLean’s absences are excused, allowing him some “slack,” to use Jerry’s word. But head coach Jason Garrett’s staff – while not wanting to poo-poo “family business” concerns – sort of rolls its collective eyes at that notion.

Meanwhile, an offensive difference-maker, Dez Bryant, suggests that he has medical clearance to participate after a pair of foot surgeries…but that all involved are exercising “caution.”

There is wisdom there, and wisdom is caution with all of these players given the risk/reward of participation in June workouts as opposed to playing in September through January games. As Garrett said about Lee, “He has not been involved practicing football with us, but his rehab has been outstanding. And typical Sean, he’s in here early, he stays late. He’s getting himself right.”

But maybe for McClain, that is too much to ask.

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Mike Fisher has over 30 years of covering professional sports and has done so based in Dallas since 1990. 'Fish' is an award-winning journalist, TV analyst and radio talk-show personality who serves as the Dallas Cowboys' 'insider' for 105.3 The Fan on the radio and as the Dallas Mavericks' insider for Fox Sports Southwest on TV. Fish is the publisher of , is also a national contributor to FOX Sports, has covered 21 Super Bowls, has authored two best-selling books on the Cowboys (with forewords by Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman) and can be followed at @FishSports on Twitter.