By Mike Fisher, 105.3 The Fan | CBSDFW.COM

IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – An MRI on the right big toe of Dallas Cowboys defensive leader Sean Lee may have revealed torn ligaments, leading to the possibility of season-ending surgery for the budding inside linebacker star.

On Sunday, after returning home from Carolina where his Cowboys had won 19-14, I asked Lee about his prognosis. He was wearing sneakers instead of dress shoes while exiting the team plane and walking through the parking lot.

“It’s not that bad,’’ Lee said while walking with a slight limp. “I think I’ll be fine.’’

But by Monday, Lee – Dallas’ most productive defender with Lee 77 tackles, eight quarterback pressures, two pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception – was at Valley Ranch on crutches. And now it seems missing multiple games, including Sunday’s showdown in Arlington against the Giants, would be the most optimistic outcome.

Without Lee, the Cowboys will continue to juggle the roster (veteran safety Charie Peprah is expected to sign this week) and might need to look for linebacker help. Inside starter Bruce Carter will now be joined by Dan Connor, who filled in for his fellow Penn State alum when Lee was hurt in Carolina.

How would Lee’s absence impact the Cowboys?

He communicates really well the defensive schemes, but his intensity is so obvious to everyone around him,’’ coach Jason Garrett said a few weeks ago.” I say this truthfully, but it’s not always on the field. It’s everywhere. You see him in a meeting room at 7:30 in the morning and he’s just ready to go. It’s like the old-time linebackers, some of those great names in NFL history; you almost feel like they have a little bit of a screw loose they’re so intense. That’s a really good thing.”

Sean Lee doesn’t really have a screw loose. But he’s got a toe that’s not right. And that’s a really bad thing.

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