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IRVING, Tex. - Injuries certainly don't preclude players from preparing for upcoming opponents, and rookie defensive end Sean Lissemore is no exception to that rule.

The Cowboys' seventh-round draft pick out of William & Mary has been shelved for the last few weeks with a high ankle sprain, but nonetheless has prepared for each opponent while rehabilitating his injury through extensive film study and mental reps during practice, while his injury relegates him to the sideline.

"William & Mary was tough in different ways," Lissemore said. "Handling the academics and the football together is a lot — that's a full-time job. Here, film study is like class, so in some ways, it's the same deal."

Maybe so, but when he was in college, Lissemore never saw a quarterback who could do even a fraction of the things Peyton Manning does. Manning and the Colts host the Cowboys this weekend, but Dallas will be playing without Lissemore, who was moved to the Injured Reserve list Friday.

But that didn't stop Lissemore from making one of the more insightful statements any Dallas player has made in years. Asked what it's like to be less than a year removed from his college playing career at William & Mary and now find himself studying arguably the best quarterback in NFL history in terms of running his offense smoothly and making checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, Lissemore graciously acknowledged that Manning is one of the all-time greats, that he does as much at the line of scrimmage to get his teammates lined up in a position that gives them a chance to be successful and to confuse defenses.

At that point, he offered this: "I think Peyton Manning would have done pretty well in the Colonial Athletic Association."

Really? Think so?

When he realized the absurdity of his statement, Lissemore cracked up.

"We played (James Madison University)," Lissemore said, "and they had a quarterback who was pretty mobile — he ran around a lot — but of course, there was nobody anywhere near Peyton Manning."

Jokes aside, Lissemore said the Dallas defense has done more intense study of Manning than of any quarterback the Cowboys have faced all season. The reason, Lissemore said, extends far beyond Manning's penchant for changing the play at the line of scrimmage through an unmatched series of audibles and hand signals.

"The coaches have done an amazing job of breaking down what he does at the line of scrimmage," Lissemore said. "They break it down by down and distance, and they try to translate what different signals mean. They can't really, because offenses change their calls and their signals, but we know what plays they like to run in specific situations.

"Once the coaches break that down, they give it to our scout team offense, which has done a great job of presenting in practice what the Colts like to do."

Lissemore said Manning's audibles and hand signals are so complex that identical duplication is unrealistic. But the Cowboys' analysis of Manning's motions have given the Dallas defense a chance, he said.

"It's not exact, of course, because he is impossible to copy," Lissemore said. "But if you study enough film, you can start to pick up some tendencies in what he does. The coaches break that down and give it to our scout team offense, and those guys have given a great look of the Indianapolis offense in practice all week. Hopefully that pays off Sunday."

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