The game might not have mattered, but it mattered a lot to the Dallas Cowboys linebacker.
It was his first game of any kind since Dec. 9, 2013, when he suffered a neck injury against the Chicago Bears. He missed 2014 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has patiently worked through his rehab through the offseason and training camp hoping to feel those nerves again.
“Adrenaline rush through pregame, through warm-ups,” Lee said, “but then you take your first hit and it’s football. Something you’ve done a lot.”
Lee was credited with three tackles in three series in the first two quarters. He called the defensive signals and made the adjustments.
“He had hits on the ball, was around the ball a lot and really looked like his old self,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones saw a defender flash on one play and looked at the digital board, his television and the small desktop he had in his suite.
“That was Lee taking on the flow of the play coming his way and I didn’t have to look twice,” Jones said. “I just saw the five on the back of his jersey and knew Lee had arrived. That was a play that was classic Lee.”
The Cowboys need the classic Lee. While he has yet to play a full season in his career, he has been a big playmaker. He has 11 interceptions in 46 games. He had 123 tackles in just 11 games in 2013. The Cowboys moved him to weakside linebacker in hopes of taking advantage of his playmaking ability. Think of how Derrick Brooks was used in Tampa Bay or Lance Briggs in Chicago.
With the added protection of a defensive lineman in front of him, Lee is free to roam to make plays.
“Certain defenses, certain alignments I’ve played it before,” Lee said. “The other things are a little bit new, so the more I play, the more I think I’ll get comfortable with it.”
He admitted to some rust Saturday, but felt better about his play the more snaps he received. He still sees plenty of work ahead to be ready for the Sept. 13 opener against the New York Giants.
“I only played 15, 20 plays,” Lee said. “It’s about playing 60, 70 plays and doing that effectively and I still have a lot of work to do that.”