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Cowboys defense gets boost with return of linebacker Sean Lee

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FRISCO, Texas -- A Dallas Cowboys defense that is ranked fourth in yards per game and second in points per game will welcome back its leader, weakside linebacker Sean Lee, on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Lee missed the past three games with a hamstring strain suffered Sept. 23 against the Seattle Seahawks, but went through two full practices this week and is not on the injury report.

"If you're ready, if you're 100 percent, you play," Lee said. "I've missed a lot of time already so I'm trying not to miss much more, trying to play as many games as I can. ... I need to get out there and get snaps, continue to improve and hopefully help this defense."

Unlike recent years, the Cowboys defense was able to withstand Lee's absence, winning two of the three games and giving up just 26 points over the past two. Jaylon Smith took over Lee's role in calling the defenses, while rookie Leighton Vander Esch started at weakside linebacker.

All three will split playing time against Washington.

"I think there are snaps for everybody," said Lee, who missed five games last year with hamstring injuries. "I think we'll all be out there trying to make plays together at some point. It's good to have a lot of guys who can be out there making plays and it will help me getting back, helping everybody stay fresh all of the time."

Head coach Jason Garrett said Lee has "had a good couple of days of practice." Dallas has the bye week after playing Washington, but that will not affect what the Cowboys do with Lee on Sunday. He has started every game he has played since 2011, his second season.

"We have no hard and fast rules about if you're injured and you keep your job or lose your job," Garrett said. "We evaluate each situation individually. Each of the players who have gone in in that absence, they have played well. Leighton's played more snaps. Jaylon's played more snaps. Those guys handled the snaps well at linebacker. ...

"You want to keep those guys alive in a role that can help our football team. Having said that, ultimately you make the decision that's best for the football team. If a guy has been out and coming back and he's healthy and ready to go and we think he gives us the best chance, we'll put him back in that role."