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Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee Voluntarily Sits Week 17, Gives Up $2 Million Bonus

Sean Lee’s Penn State legacy is one of leadership and character. The standout linebacker embodied the Penn State way as he commanded respect from his fellow teammates — traits Lee carried with him to the NFL. But his decision to sit Dallas’ Week 17 matchup against Washington and knowingly relinquish a $2 million bonus so he didn’t “disrespect” his teammates displays the type of selflessness rarely seen at the professional level with millions of dollars on the table.

Lee, who could’ve earned a total of $4.5 million this season had he played for Dallas in Week 17, was hampered by a hamstring injury in the days leading up to the team’s regular season finale, prompting the Cowboys to list him as “questionable” for Sunday’s game.

Lee’s bonus was based on playing time; the sixth year linebacker needed to play 80 percent of defensive snaps for the Cowboys, and heading into Week 17, Lee sat comfortably ahead of his required snap quota at 82.1 percent of snaps. However, by opting to sit out Dallas’ regular season finale, his snap percentage dipped to 77 percent, and according to, the linebacker fell 32 snaps short of the contract escalator. Some might see this and assume Dallas was trying to save a few extra bucks, but Lee confirmed that the decision was his and his alone after the game.

“It was me who decided to not play,” Lee said to “It didn’t feel like I was going to be effective enough to help the football team. I didn’t warm up well enough on Thursday and sort of tweaked the hamstring. If I had a couple extra days I probably could’ve played, but it was completely my decision.”

For a guy earning a total of $42 million over six years, $2 million isn’t a huge loss. Regardless, $2 million is a hefty sum, and the fact that Lee would reject it because he felt he wouldn’t play up to par speaks volumes about the type of person he is.

The Redskins went on to defeat the Cowboys 34-23 behind three touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, and Lee’s presence probably wouldn’t have made the biggest difference. Despite the outcome, Lee’s commendable actions should be applauded, especially when you consider Lee’s unfortunate injury history that’s plagued him of late.

About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]


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