Knees no concern for linebacker Sean Lee
INDIANAPOLIS — Confident that the knee injuries that cost him an entire season at Penn State are behind him, Sean Lee will participate in all of the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"The last two years (at Penn State), I wasn't nearly as durable as my first three years, but I'm here to prove I'm 100 percent," the former Upper St. Clair High standout said Saturday. "I could play right now."
Lee has been training without a brace since his Penn State career ended in January. If he alleviates any concerns teams have about his knees, one NFL draft expert said he should be picked early.
Some projections have Lee going in the third round of the draft.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck in late in the first round," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "If he doesn't, I think he's going to go in the front half of the second round. He's too good."
That is what Penn State found out early in his career. Lee finished his career with 325 tackles, 29.5 tackles for losses and 11 sacks.
The 6-2 Lee, who weighed in at 236 pounds at the Combine, projects as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense and an inside linebacker in a 3-4 set.
"My No. 1 trait is I can get to the football," Lee said. "I think I'm good in the passing game. I think I'm a three-down linebacker, and if you watch film, you'll see I can pressure the quarterback."
Lee's last two years at Penn State offer a study in persistence.
He missed the 2008 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee during spring practice. He sprained the ACL in his left knee last September, and the injury forced him to miss three games, including Penn State's Big Ten opener against Iowa.
Lee returned to anchor the Nittany Lions' defense. Despite playing with a cumbersome brace, the two-time captain finished the season with a career-high 11 tackles for losses, seven passes broken up and an interception.
"I'm sure a lot of these guys are going to have injuries in their career," Lee said of the other players at the Combine. "The difference between me and them is: I've had them. I've proved I can play through them. You can look at it as a plus, especially considering I'm healthy right now."
Lee has been training at Power Sports Institute in Lancaster under Steve Saunders, who works with a number of NFL players, including Steelers linebacker James Harrison and tight end Heath Miller.
"Sean, to me, is a first-round kid," Saunders said. "If he falls later than that because they have questions about his knees ... whoever takes him in any round other than the first is getting an absolute steal."