IRVING, Texas — Tony Romo’s status could be a game-time decision against Arizona on Sunday, according to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The quarterback is coming off his third back injury in 18 months, but Jones said on his radio show Wednesday that Romo’s injury would not end his season.
The owner said his 34-year-old quarterback’s availability might come down to pain tolerance after sustaining a back contusion on a third-quarter sack in a 20-17 overtime loss to Washington on Monday. Romo missed about a quarter before returning.
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If it’s a question of tolerating pain, Romo says he will play Sunday. The issue in his mind is whether he can run the offense while dealing with his back injury. He said Wednesday he doesn’t know.
Romo said the injury was ”more than a contusion,” referring to coach Jason Garrett’s description. He wouldn’t be more specific about the damage from a direct hit to his surgically repaired back on a third-quarter sack by linebacker Keenan Robinson.
”Anytime someone’s had back surgery you’re always a little bit nervous when you get hit in a specific instance like that,” Romo said. ”The positive is it’s completely unrelated to the disk or anything that could be long term, per se. So that part of if, yeah, that’s a positive. As far as feeling great, I feel like that’s a negative. But I think that will come.”
Jones reiterated the injury isn’t related to a herniated disk that led to surgery after a game against Washington last December. Jones also said the latest injury is unrelated to a cyst removal from Romo’s back in April 2013.
There is "nothing medically" that would prevent Romo from playing, Jones said.
If it does come down to pain, Romo has a history of playing with it. He played through the herniated disk against the Redskins last season and came back after fracturing his ribs and puncturing a lung against San Francisco in 2011. In both games, Romo led fourth-quarter comeback victories.
Brandon Weeden led the Cowboys to points on both possessions that Romo missed, and he will start if Romo can’t play. That would also mean rookie Dustin Vaughan would be activated from the practice squad for the first time.
Jones said he went to the training room as soon as Romo went out. After an X-ray determined no structural damage and doctors said Romo could return, the owner relayed that information to Garrett on the sideline.
Romo took a pain-killing injection before returning against the Redskins, and Garrett declined to say whether he would prefer that Romo play without one.
Jones indicated Romo wouldn’t practice Thursday because that will be the first full-pad workout of the week. Romo has skipped the first full practice every week during the regular season as part of his post-surgery routine.
"If Romo’s ready to play, he can play," Jones said. "Now whether or not he can withstand the things that go with that, relative to pain and relative to execute, that’s a big issue. That’s a big if. But if he can do it, then he’ll play."
Romo has said the pain he endured last year in Washington was worse than a 2011 game in San Francisco, where he slipped past doctors in the locker room and led a comeback win with cracked ribs and a punctured lung. He even played the next week, beating the Redskins.
”I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody who has a tougher will, his mind, and it helps him tremendously with pain threshold,” Jones said. ”Combination of those two things, he’s as tough-minded and physically tough a player as I’ve ever been around.”
And that’s why Romo says pain won’t have much to do with the decision.
”It will be about your ability to be productive in some fashion,” Romo said. ”That part of it we will continue to evaluate.”
Weeden’s last start was last December for Cleveland, which drafted him in the first round in 2012 and started him immediately before dumping him with a 5-15 career record after two seasons. He signed with the Cowboys in the offseason.
”I’m going to treat it no different,” said Weeden, who’s had more quality practice time than most backups because of the way the Cowboys have managed Romo’s workouts. ”If he’s able to go, that’s the best thing. We’ll see how everything plays out.”
Garrett offered little insight into Romo’s status, refusing to discuss anything beyond Wednesday’s work.
Romo’s trying to make the week as normal as possible.
”You just prepare like you always do,” he said. ”You watch tape. You do what you do in a normal week, and you go and play football.”
While Jones was relieved that Romo didn’t have a season-ending injury, it was the third different back problem for the first player in franchise history to sign a $100 million contract. He’s in the second year of a six-year, $108 million extension with $55 million guaranteed.
”I’ll bet if we looked around the league, we’ll see a lot of times you have contusions and you have issues with backs,” Jones said. ”But in no way would it impact whether Tony was our quarterback or not, unless he just can’t play.”
The Cowboys might not know that answer until Sunday.
NOTES: LB Justin Durant (torn right biceps), the team’s leading tackler, and practice squad LB Troy Davis (groin) were placed on season-ending injured reserve. LB Tim Dobbins was signed to the active roster, and LB Will Smith was added to the practice squad. … The Cowboys waived G Rishaw Johnson (California-PA) from the practice squad and signed G Jeff Baca (UCLA) in his place on Wednesday.