Tony Romo made the trip to London. Whether he’s able to help the Dallas Cowboys avoid a third straight defeat Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars remains to be seen.
After missing last Sunday’s 28-17 home loss to Arizona, Romo followed his regular Wednesday routine by sitting out Dallas’ first practice in England to rest his injured back but did take part in Thursday’s drills. He has fractures in two small bones, an injury unrelated to a herniated disk he suffered last year or the offseason surgery he needed to remove a cyst earlier in 2013.
Though owner Jerry Jones said he is "anticipating him playing" Sunday at Wembley Stadium, coach Jason Garrett still isn’t committing to Romo as his starter.
"He has to be functional," Garrett said Thursday. "He has to be able to protect himself."
Romo ranks in the top five in the NFL in completion percentage (68.2) and passer rating (103.6) while throwing for 1,998 yards with 15 touchdowns. He’s thrown three interceptions in seven games since opening with three in a 28-17 loss to San Francisco on Sept. 7.
"We as coaches, the football people, we’re most interested in function, how is the player functioning,” Garrett said. ”He might say `this,’ the doctor may say `this,’ but what we see is `this.’
”We have to make the best decision during the week to get him ready to play on Sunday.”
Dallas’ offense was guided by backup Brandon Weeden against the Cardinals and it totaled a season-low 266 yards. Weeden went 18 of 33 for 183 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
DeMarco Murray was held to fewer than 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, finishing with 79 on 19 carries. Dez Bryant caught a 3-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown but ended the game with season lows of two catches for 15 yards.
Those offensive struggles naturally magnify the talk surrounding Dallas’ quarterback leading up to the final NFL game in London this season.
”There’s a lot of media attention on the NFL, on the Cowboys, and certainly if you’re the quarterback of the Cowboys, there’s a lot of media attention that comes with that,” Garrett said. ”If you’re that guy, or someone around that guy, it’s just part of the deal. It comes with the dinner, as they say, and you get yourself ready to go.”
Garrett insists that won’t be a distraction to his team’s preparation. He also remains confident in Weeden.
Bryant, at least publicly, feels the same way.
”Without question I missed (Romo), but I believe in Weeden too,” said Bryant, targeted 10 times against Arizona. ”We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and try to fix what we need to fix.”
The Cowboys (6-3) could remedy their ills by getting Murray back on track, as he comfortably leads the NFL with 1,133 rushing yards and is on pace to become the league’s second 2,000-yard rusher in three seasons.
He’ll face a Jacksonville defense that allowed 339 rushing yards in consecutive losses to Miami and Cincinnati, including 154 to Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill in last Sunday’s 33-23 defeat.
Ranked 30th with 27.9 points allowed per contest, the Jaguars are trying to get by despite season-ending injuries to linebacker Paul Posluszny and cornerbacks Will Blackmon and Alan Ball.
Jacksonville is also looking to improve on special teams after it had a punt tipped, another blocked for a safety and put a kickoff out of bounds against the Bengals.
"Be upset, be angry and be determined to come back even stronger is our mentality in the locker room," coach Gus Bradley said.
Jacksonville averages a league-low 15.7 points, but has scored more than 20 in two of the last three games. Blake Bortles threw two second-half TDs to Allen Hurns and helped keep the Jaguars within three of Cincinnati in the fourth quarter before Hill’s 60-yard TD run broke it open.
With eight TDs, 13 INTs and a 72.1 passer rating, Bortles continues to take his lumps while learning on the job as a rookie.
"He is so confident, so competitive," Bradley told the Jaguars’ official website. "With him, he’s constantly trying to get better. He learns from his mistakes. He goes out and tries to correct them. All those signs are just part of growth."
Denard Robinson has distinguished himself as the Jaguars’ top backfield option, rushing for 329 yards and two TDs over the last three games. He’s averaged 5.8 yards per carry in that span.
The Jaguars lost 42-10 to San Francisco in London last Oct. 27.
A shoulder injury kept Romo out of Dallas’ 35-17 loss to Jacksonville in the teams’ last meeting in 2010.