Sean Lee says neck is improving

IRVING, Texas -- Two months after suffering a torn ligament in his neck, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has not been fully cleared by the team's medical staff.

Lee, who has been rehabbing and working out at Valley Ranch since the season ended, said the neck has improved and he is feeling healthy. The Cowboys open their official offseason program on April 21.

"I'm working all the neck exercises," Lee said. "I think it was just having time to heal, allowing that ligament to heal, and it takes a certain amount of time. I think we're on the path to where it's pretty much there."

Lee missed the final three games of the 2013 season after getting hurt in the first quarter in a Dec. 9 loss to the Chicago Bears, which came after he missed two games with a hamstring injury.

Lee kept hoping he could return, but the doctors would not clear him after an MRI revealed a torn ligament.

"I don't need surgery, which is a positive," Lee said. "But I didn't play at the end of the year at a very critical time, and it's been two years in a row, and I need to be out there. There's no excuse for it. I've got to find a way to stay on the football field."

Lee has missed 18 games in his first four seasons, but only four for minor injuries. He missed one game in 2011 because of a dislocated wrist and played the bulk of the remaining games with a cast. He missed 10 games in 2012 because of a severe toe injury.

"I think I've had a combination of injuries, like the hamstring would be an injury-prone type of injury," said Lee, who signed a six-year extension worth up to $51 million last summer. "I think I've also had some bad luck where I got rolled up in a pile with my toe and I've gotten hit by my own guy in a pile.

"I need to find a way to stay healthy, whether it's finding a way to be stronger and not having the hamstring deal or it's hopefully having a little bit better luck. I need a combination of both going forward."