With his arms crossed, ball cap on – forward – and an electronic stimulation device working to heal his broken rib, Tony Romo could only watch as the other Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks threw warm-up passes at the start of practice Thursday.
Still, just being on the field was an indication Romo could start Monday night against the Redskins.
Romo wore a jersey and shorts and moved gingerly. When everyone stretched, he was slow to join them, then didn’t do anything that required bending or moving his arms. At the start of team drills, he stood with the backups, watching with his arms clasped behind his back. Jon Kitna worked with the first team and would start if Romo can’t.
”I fully expect him to play,” Kitna said.
Coach Jason Garrett repeatedly referred to Romo’s status as day-to-day, with constant monitoring of his progress. He called it a good sign that Romo was on the field Thursday and said the quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to practice to be cleared for the game, but would like to see him get in some work.
”We’re going to get a feel for how he is feeling going into the game and then we’ll make some decisions,” Garrett said. ”It’s still very early in the week. … It’s a little too early in the week to get into all those hypothetical situations.”
Coaches and teammates said Romo was moving around better than they’d expected. Many of them pointed to the fact he was able to return to Sunday’s game with the rib injury – and with a torn lung that had yet to be diagnosed.
As scary as that sounds, it was a small enough tear that he should be fully recovered long before kickoff.
”He has been upbeat, he has been positive, he has been going through it like a regular work week,” tight end Jason Witten said. ”He is very active in meetings and doing what needs to do to get back out there.”
This was Dallas’ first practice since Romo overcame the broken rib and a tear in his lung to pull out a comeback victory in overtime against San Francisco on Sunday. He’s been praised for his toughness and leadership just a week after being scorned for bad plays and poor decisions that led to a loss in the opener, and he also earned the NFC offensive player of the week award.
”The legend has began,” linebacker Bradie James said. ”Punctured spleen, kidney, whatever it is, he’s going to be out there.”
The Cowboys came out of the 49ers game with so many injuries to key players that Garrett gave the entire squad an extra day off Wednesday. They could afford it because they have an extra day before the next game, which also is at home.
The status of many other key players remains in flux. Six others didn’t practice, including running back Felix Jones (shoulder) and receivers Dez Bryant (thigh) and Miles Austin (hamstring).
Austin aggravated an injury that had him limping much of last week. He managed to score a career-best three touchdowns despite his pain, but now is likely to miss the next two games, plus have the bye to get healthy.
Bryant was a game-time decision. The fact he’s still not on the field seems like something else could be wrong, but Garrett said that’s not the case.”
”The degree of the injury is really the issue,” Garrett said. ”It really swelled up on him soon after (the opener). He didn’t have very much flexibility at all, all throughout last week. We were all hopeful and optimistic but it’s just been a progression. I think it’s gotten better as the days have gone by.”
The offensive line remains a carousel, too. Starters Phil Costa and Derrick Dockery were out with knee injuries. Dockery moved into the lineup last week because Bill Nagy (knee) was hurt, but Nagy was back Thursday.
A patched-together line isn’t exactly the best way to protect Romo, should he come back, but the Cowboys will have no choice.
There was some good news: cornerback Terence Newman (groin) practiced for the first time since early August.
”It’s great to have a Pro Bowl corner, a mainstay like Terence, an experienced guy who knows how to get prepared and can go out and challenge a team’s top receiver,” safety Abe Elam said.