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What we learned from Tuesday's OTAs

Obsessive Tony Romo critics will find a way to pin the blame on the Dallas Cowboys quarterback for the injury that sent middle linebacker Sean Lee sprawling in Tuesday's practice.

Within minutes of Romo's return to the field following postseason back surgery, Lee suffered a blowout that resulted in a torn left ACL, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday night.

The immediate on-field reaction of teammates spoke volumes, as several hung their heads and expressed outward frustration with Lee's injury.

Lee's looming long-term absence is another reminder that Romo has been unfairly tagged as the face of the Cowboys' disappointment over the past half-decade. Although it's a positive sign that the Cowboys have finally reversed their longstanding policy of overpaying to keep their own marquee players, they continue to miss the playoffs as a star-driven team lacking any semblance of quality roster depth.

Nowhere is that more apparent than when Lee -- the backbone of the defense -- misses extended time, as evidenced by the humiliating November loss in which the Saints' offense steamrolled its way to an NFL-record 40 first downs.

In our Projected Rosters series, we pointed out that Dallas' defense is a bottom-five unit if a key player goes down with an injury.

Fans should brace for a bevy of shootouts like the heartbreaking 51-48 loss to the Broncos last October.

Here's what else we learned Tuesday as 25 teams took to the field for OTAs.

1. Bruce Arians was the bane of the fantasy football world last season when he refused to expand Andre Ellington's role at Rashard Mendenhall's expense. The reason given at the time: Ellington was a thin-hipped, slightly built back who couldn't handle a heavy workload. Once Ellington bulked up early in the offseason, Arians told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that he would build his offense around the scatback.

Arians doubled down on that message Tuesday, continuing the laughable tradition of NFL coaches predicting 25-30 touches per game for their featured backs. So one season after playing it smart with Ellington to prevent injury, Arians is prescribing 400-500 touches in an offense that features Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd? We wish you weren't a liar, Bruce Arians.

2. The Cardinals' offensive line sheds light on the risk of reading too much into first-, second- and third-team reps during offseason practices. Bobby Massie (at right tackle) and Earl Watford (right guard) worked in with the first team on Tuesday after Bradley Sowell and Paul Fanaika handled the starter's reps a week ago. Depth charts are fluid and coaches are experimenting, which presents a challenge for observers heralding a changing of the guard.

In the case of the Bengals' backfield, though, it certainly seems as if BenJarvus Green-Ellis is being phased out, as predicted by NFL Media's Bucky Brooks on last Friday's "Around The League Podcast". Giovani Bernard took the first-team snaps, with rookie Jeremy Hill handling second-team work. Green-Ellis worked behind both of the young backs, an ominous sign after averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per carry last season.

3. Among the high-profile no-shows were disgruntled Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, 49ers guard Alex Boone and a pair of Chiefs -- cornerback Brandon Flowers and outside linebacker Justin Houston. Boone and Houston are seeking new contracts.

4. Among the players returning to practice after missing time with injuries were Titans quarterback Jake Locker (foot), Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd (neck), Dolphins wide receivers Brian Hartline (knee) and Brandon Gibson (knee), Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington (groin) and Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford (Achilles).

5. Among the players missing Tuesday's OTAs with injuries were Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith (minor ankle surgery) and safety Kam Chancellor (hip surgery), Bears guard Matt Slauson (shoulder surgery), Raiders defensive lineman Antonio Smith (undisclosed surgery), Bucs guard Carl Nicks (toe) and Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton (knee surgery).

6. Among the surprise punt returners were Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Seattle coach Pete Carroll also mentioned Percy Harvin and Richard Sherman as candidates for the kamikaze job.

7. Contrary to popular belief, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not penciled in as the Texans' opening-day quarterback. Coach Bill O'Brien emphasized Tuesday that there is a "wide open" competition featuring Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and fourth-round draft pick Tom Savage.

8. It's exceedingly rare for a rookie to start in Dick LeBeau's defense, which requires players to adjust on the fly to exotic blitzes and pressures. The Steelers are under no such pretense with first-round inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was immediately placed into the starting lineup Tuesday.

9. The most transformed body this offseason apparently belongs to Dolphins edge rusher Dion Jordan. The Miami Herald quipped that he "looked as if he took an air pump and plugged it into his arms and shoulders." The Dolphins have decided that the athletically gifted 2013 first-rounder is better utilized in attacking the quarterback rather than dropping into coverage.

10. Amid speculation that he will hit the trade block, Titans left tackle Michael Roos said he expects to be in Tennessee for "one more year."

11. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been impressed with newly signed first-round edge rusher Dee Ford, who has been off the charts thus far.

12. The Raiders continue to insist their roster is playoff-caliber and Matt Schaub is a top-10 NFL quarterback.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down the news and discusses players who could be summertime trade targets.

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