How Dallas fills leadership void left by Lee

ARLINGTON, Texas -- After another cruel twist of fate, Sean Lee is back to being the highest paid assistant linebackers coach in NFL history.

A day after tearing the ACL in his left knee, an injury expected to sideline him for the entire 2014 season, Lee attended meetings and practice Wednesday at Valley Ranch. He gave rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens, a fourth-round pick who is first in line to try to replace Lee, some tips on a couple of Cover 2 looks after the workout.

"That's what great leaders do," safety Barry Church said.

This will be the norm for Lee now. Frustrating as it is, it's all Dallas' best defensive player can do to help the Cowboys win this season.

"He wants to win, if he's on the field or not," Hitchens said. "It means a lot to me, being a young guy that he's helping me out already. Whenever I have questions I run right to him. He's been here for a while, so he knows all the pieces of the puzzle, so I always go to him and ask questions."

It's further evidence that Lee is a natural born leader. However, he can't be the leader of the Dallas defense while wearing sweats on the sideline.

That leaves a massive void in that department for a defense that also lost respected veterans DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher this offseason.

How can the Cowboys fill that void? It will have to be by committee.

"That's what happens when your main dog goes down -- everybody has to carry the load now," cornerback Brandon Carr said.

Church, a safety with only one full season as a starter, is one of the first names that come up in that conversation. Carr and fellow veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick are also mentioned. Defensive tackle Henry Melton, a Valley Ranch newcomer but a Pro Bowler for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli with the Chicago Bears in 2012, is also a possibilit.

"Me and a couple of the other guys are going to have to take over that defense, just lead the younger guys in the right direction," Church said. "Feel like we can do that.

"It's going to take more than one player. As a defense, we're just going to have to come together and hopefully fill his gap. It's going to be a tough one because he's the leader of our defense, but I'm sure we can get it done."