EXCLUSIVE: Growing Up Fast

IRVING, Tex. - Like most players in their first year with the Dallas Cowboys, rookie linebacker Sean Lee is eager to play his first game on Thanksgiving Day.

"It's exciting," Lee said. "Growing up, we'd always go over to my grandma and grandpa's house. These games are part of the Thanksgiving holiday."

But Lee, who has been a major contributor on special teams and is getting increased playing time on defense, immediately pointed out the fact that he can't get too caught up in the hoopla surrounding the game.

"I have to try to approach it like a normal game," he said. "I've already had that ‘first' with my first NFL game. This is a short week, and we have to have all of our focus on the New Orleans Saints."

Lee conceded that the short week will be an adjustment, as the coaching staff crams a full week of preparation into just a few days.

"We take a lot of (New Orleans) film home with us and watch it at home, and we probably won't have a practice in full pads this week," he said. "It's a little different, but the Saints have to do the same things, and they have to travel here, too. Everyone's on a short week."

Lee said he and the rest of the Dallas defense fully expect one challenge that hasn't appeared in any of the Saints' recent game tapes: running back Reggie Bush.

Bush has been out of the lineup since the second week of the season, when he broke his right fibula against the San Francisco 49ers. Bush warmed up before his team's game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but was held out of the lineup as a precaution.

Lee said he doesn't anticipate the Saints holding him out again.

"I'd be very surprised if he doesn't play Thursday," Lee said. "We're preparing like he will be in there.

"He is such an incredible talent, and such a threat. Even when they don't get the ball to him, you have to worry about him, so he can be a weapon even as a decoy, because if you don't have him covered, he's as dangerous as anyone in the NFL. They do so many things with him, especially with screen passes … you have to get there quick or he'll make you pay."

After the disastrous start to their season, the Cowboys are going for their third consecutive victory Thursday against the Saints. To say the team has played differently since interim head coach Jason Garrett was hired would be an understatement. But while some fans and media have declared the Cowboys cured of all that ails them, Lee said that predicting anything too drastic — like, say, a run of victories that lets them sneak into the playoffs — would be grossly premature. He said he and his teammates certainly aren't taking that approach.

"We really are taking it one game at a time," Lee said. "I know you don't want to hear that, and you think it's a cliché, but it's true. We've had a very up-and-down season, and we need to concentrate on each opponent. We can't afford to get sloppy and slip up against anyone."
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