Cowboys defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey expressed different sentiment during a January interview with Dallas television station FOX 4 (KDFW). Mincey said a 2014 Cowboys squad that was "so close-knit and tight" during a 12-4 season changed for the worse as Hardy struggled to fit in the team fabric.
Lee said other problems led to last season’s 4-12 mark.
"I thought we were all on the same page," Lee told me on SiriusXM NFL Radio while attending a post-football planning seminar Thursday held by Priority Sports and Entertainment. "If you watch our effort throughout games, we played extremely hard.
"The issue with us when we lost some of our best players — Tony and Dez — and the margin of error became smaller. We weren’t able to overcome adversity. We didn’t make the critical, game-changing plays [on defense] all the time. We didn’t cause enough turnovers. We didn’t make the plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter. That’s why we lost games. It was never because we weren’t all-in or effort. It was all because of execution, especially in critical times."
The Cowboys’ offense failed to execute effectively without Romo, who was forced to miss 12 games with collarbone injuries. The Cowboys were 1-11 in games that Romo didn’t start.
"I think we all knew already how important he was — the type of leader he is, the way he plays," Lee said. "He’s an unbelievable quarterback. We need him to win.
"It was tough because he put so much time into the game. I know he was frustrated with injuries because he wants to be out there helping us win at all costs. I know when he comes back next year he’ll be ready. I can’t wait to watch him play."
Although the Cowboys struggled as a team, Lee enjoyed his most productive statistical season with a career-high 128 tackles after being shifted from middle to weak-side linebacker. Lee had missed the entire 2014 campaign because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in an offseason drill.
"When I got to [training] camp, I felt good, but the knee every week, every month felt better and better," Lee said. "I became more effective because I became more and more comfortable."
Lee said there were positive things from last season that the Cowboys’ defense can build upon.
"When we review the tape, there were some areas where we played well," Lee said. "Where we’re looking to improve is being able to cause turnovers and make big plays in the fourth quarter."
Whether Hardy will be a part of that effort is in question as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.