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Fri, 26 Oct 2012 02:30 AM EDT

The Cowboys declared they are placing the inside LB Sean Lee on season-ending injured reserve with a toe injury and have signed vet linebacker Ernie Sims to fill his roster spot.

Lee will have surgery on his right big toe next week with a total recovery predicted for 2013. Running back Felix Jones had a similar surgery in 2008 and has not had any issues with the toe since.

Coach Jason Garrett asserted the team initially assumed Lee would miss 4-6 weeks with the injury, which was suffered in the 3rd quarter Sun. at Carolina, but a 2nd MRI confirmed extensive damage.

Lee’s agent, Mike McCartney, announced that Lee would be seeking a 2nd medical opinion, but the linebacker suffered a “significant tear.”

“We’re not hopeful,” McCartney added. “I’m sure he’s having surgery sooner rather than later.”

Lee leads the Dallas Cowboys in tackles with 77 in the first 6 games, in the opinion of the coaches’ film. He has 2 tackles for loss, 8 QB pressures, one interception, 2 pass deflections and a forced fumble.

“Injuries are part of the NFL, as you know, in Dallas and 31 other cities,” Garrett claimed. “We’ve had them. Everybody’s had them. You have to deal with them thru the season. NFL odds

“Sean Lee is an excellent football player. I cannot tell you how well he’s been playing since he’s been our starting inside LB. He’s the leader of the defense. He makes the calls. He plays the right way in practice. He plays the right way in the game. He defends the run. He defends the pass. He’s a bell cow for us and a fellow that really, really everyone on our defense and football team looks up to. He goes about it the best way and he’s an excellent person as well. We love everything about him. It’s obviously unfortunate and upsetting he had the injury.”

The Cowboys plan on Lee being around the team for the rest of the season in a similar way Tony Romo remained with the club in 2010 as he recovered from a broken collarbone.

“He has so much intensity about him,” Garrett claimed. “Talking to him yesterday, he’s had injuries in the past and he’s come back from every one of them both in college and here in the NFL. And he has such intensity about him. He said, ‘You know, I’m not getting down. I’m ready to go. I go be a part of this football team and we’re going to get this thing fixed. I’ll be back before you know it.’ So he just has that way about him in everything he does. He’s an impressive human being and a great guy to have on your football team.”

The Cowboys view Lee as a key piece of the way ahead for the team, but he’s had trouble staying healthy. He almost had his 2011 season come to an end with a dislocated left wrist but managed to miss only 1 game and played the remainder of the season with a cast. He missed 2 games in 2010 with a hamstring injury after coming in with a knee injury.

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