Romo not playing preseason finale; McGee to start

Whatever improvements Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys expect to
make before the regular season will have to come on the practice
field.

Romo and most starters will sit out the preseason finale
Thursday night against Miami. Like many teams, the Cowboys usually
rest their first-teamers this close to the regular season to guard
against injuries, but coach Wade Phillips had been tempted to send
them back out for one last chance to work out their kinks – such as
Romo producing only one touchdown in four games.

”We’ve got a lot of work to do no matter what,” Phillips said.
”We know that.”

Dallas starters were outscored 20-0 against Houston on Saturday
night, a week after being outplayed by San Diego, too. Phillips
insists those outings aren’t a true reflection of his team because
they weren’t approaching the games the way they will in the regular
season.

Still, their struggles have prompted a lot of scrutiny.

There are questions about whether the team is too tired from the
NFL’s longest training camp, which covered three cities and five
weeks. There are questions about whether Phillips’ approach is the
right one. And, most of all, there’s the question of whether this
might actually be a true reflection of this team.

Linebacker Keith Brooking said the panic has spread to his
household.

”My wife is freaking out,” he said, laughing. ”I had to sit
down and have a talk with her last night. … I was able to calm
her down. She is a believer again.”

Brooking realizes this is a high-profile team with high
expectations. He also realizes the Cowboys have given fans reasons
to be concerned.

Still, he considers the backlash an overreaction that he hopes
stays out of the locker room.

”I don’t think you disregard (the preseason) by any means,” he
said. ”But you can’t let it affect you to where there’s a little
bit of hesitation, a little bit of a doubt in your mind about how
good of a football team we are because confidence, swagger –
whatever word you want to use – is very important in this league
and this game. We have a lot of reasons to be confident about this
football team.”

What’s the best reason?

”The way we practice and prepare when not everybody is looking
at us and not on tape for everyone to see, not nationally
televised,” he said. ”That preparation has been very good. We’ve
had good practices. We’re right where we need to be.”

Brooking is among the injured veterans who won’t play against
the Dolphins. Romo is the only other starter Phillips specifically
said will sit out.

”Our starters will play in some cases some, in some cases
none,” Phillips said. ”Different things determine it. Some of it
is in numbers, how many people we have to play.”

Third-stringer Stephen McGee will start at quarterback. Like
most of the guys who see a lot of action, he’s vying for his spot
on the 53-man roster. Dallas kept only two quarterbacks last
season.

There’s no decision yet whether top pick Dez Bryant will make
his NFL debut. Phillips was waiting to see how well the receiver
came out of practice Tuesday, his first in pads since having a high
ankle sprain early in training camp.

Players spoke with reporters before practice. Most stuck with
the script Phillips encouraged them to follow: playing time is up
to the coaches and all the mistakes they’ve made so far can be
fixed.

Receiver Patrick Crayton, who usually speaks his mind, at least
offered a colorful description about following the company
line.

”There’s no bass in the lake,” he said. ”It’s trout season
now. Everybody’s down low. You’ll have to find another lake to fish
in.”