IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Wearing an oversized cast to protect his injured left wrist, a contraption so unsightly it prompted nicknames such as "Q-tip" and "Bam Bam," Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee returned to practice Wednesday.
Lee _ the team's leader in tackles, interceptions and fumble recoveries _ has been out the last game and a half because his left wrist is dislocated and slightly fractured. Coincidence or not, Dallas' run defense has slipped from tops in the NFL to 12th during his absence.
He expects to return Sunday against Buffalo, wearing some version of the cast/club, which swallowed everything below his elbow, including his fingers.
"I think it's definitely something I can play with as I get more and more used to it, the better I'll get with it," Lee said. "It's going to take time to adapt a little bit, but I was pleasantly surprised with (it). I didn't feel very uncomfortable. ... Obviously there is going to be a transition period but with how it went today, I feel like I can still be an effective player."
There will be some adjustments. After all, he can't use his left hand to make tackles or to shed blocks.
"I'm going to have to find a way to adapt a little bit where I'm taking on blockers a little differently, I'm really going to have to punch," he said. "When I tackle, I'm going to have to not grab as much and get in position better."
The cast was cut off when practice finished and Lee slipped back into a protective sleeve.
Lee was hurt early in a lopsided loss at Philadelphia. His left hand was useless nearly all last week, but he's since regained most of the strength.
"The amount it's progressed in a week, I've actually been shocked," he said. "I can grab, I can do a lot of things. As of a week ago, I couldn't even hold a coffee mug up."
He said that practicing in the cast "wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it would be." He's still likely to take some sort of painkilling medicine on game day.
He expects to keep the fingers covered this week, then he hopes to eventually free them to help him do his job better.
Lee said catching a ball will be tough, but he's hoping to find whatever benefits there might be to having a hard wrap.
"I was asking what the rules are," he said, smiling. "If you hit someone it the facemask, are you going to get penalties? ... Hopefully I can just be effective and get some tipped balls and get some other guys some interceptions."
Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring) and running back Felix Jones (ankle) did not practice. Punter Mat McBriar (foot) was limited.