IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain finished tied for second in the Comeback Player of the Year voting to New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski returned from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 and caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. McClain finished tied with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who also came back from a torn ACL.
McClain’s comeback was self-imposed because of an early retirement. His comeback, however, was worthy of winning the award.
The Cowboys could have another linebacker be a serious candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in 2015 with Sean Lee recovering from a torn ACL.
Lee was doing on-field rehab work by the end of the season and said he was feeling really good. The Cowboys will need him to return fully healthy in order to help improve a defense that was better than expected in 2014 but still average.
Lee is their best playmaker. He would be a sure bet to record 100 tackles. He has a nose for the football. If McClain re-signs, Lee could move to weakside linebacker, which is the playmaking position in the Cowboys’4-3 scheme. If he sticks as the middle linebacker, he’ll still be in position to make a ton of plays.
Lee won’t be the only Cowboy making a comeback.
CB Morris Claiborne -- He will likely need the full offseason for rehab and possibly the early part of training camp before he can get back on the field as he returns from a torn patellar tendon. Claiborne is entering the final year of his contract.
DE Jack Crawford -- Just as he was playing his best ball, he suffered a broken thumb that required season-ending surgery. He should be good to go for the offseason and could play a vital role in the defensive line rotation.
DT Amobi Okoye -- He was kept on the non-football illness list all season as he continued to come back from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, which left him in a coma for parts of 2012. The Cowboys signed him to a two-year deal last year in hopes of really getting something from him in 2015. Maybe he can fill a backup role.
DE Ben Gardner -- A seventh-round pick in 2014, his rookie season was lost due to a shoulder injury. He will be ready to go for the offseason, as well. The coaches were highly intrigued by him going into training camp. He has a non-stop motor and is a better athlete than people think.
DT Chris Whaley -- He was signed as an undrafted free agent last year knowing he would need to redshirt in 2014 because of a knee injury. The extra time getting his knee ready will help him get stronger overall. Entering the draft, he drew comparisons to Henry Melton. Maybe he can develop.
OT Darrion Weems -- He dislocated his shoulder in training camp and needed surgery that ended his season. He has been around for a couple of years, so the Cowboys see something. Maybe he can develop into the swing tackle with the Cowboys likely unable to keep Doug Free and Jermey Parnell.