Romo participates in OTAs after offseason back surgery

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo watches as the team runs drills during OTA activity.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

IRVING, Texas – The way Tony Romo sees it, he’s way ahead of last season after participating in the first day of OTA’s Tuesday since having back surgery last December.

Romo threw passes in drills and walk-throughs but sat out when the offense took on the defense. Just Romo’s presence was impressive to some after he had surgery to relieve a herniated disk.

Romo missed all of the off-season work leading up to the 2013 season because of a different back surgery to remove a cyst.

"I’m actually excited just about where I am comparative to last year," Romo said. "There are some things I want to work on in small doses."

Romo’s enthusiasm contrasts some of the doubts about his longevity at age 34 after having two back surgeries.

"For me, I think I’m going to play for a lot longer," Romo said. "I know it’s a big discussion when you’re coming back from surgery, but at the same token I wouldn’t be surprised if I played for another five or six years."

But to do that, Romo said he’s had to change his approach to conditioning. It’s a concession to age and injury history.

"You’ve just got to do things a little different when you come back," Romo said. "You’ve got to view back at the way that you lift and the way that you attack your off-season program, and in-season, it’s got to be different. You have to work some muscles and things that you might not have concentrated as much on before."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett sounded pleased about Romo’s progress on his first day back, even in a limited role.

"He executed the plan we had for him," Garrett said. "We wanted to keep him out of the competitive stuff against the defense that was full speed, like we’re doing with a number of the other players that are also coming off injuries. I thought he had a good day from what I can tell. It will be fun to watch the tape and see how he really did."

Romo said he has no concerns about returning to full strength because his injury was not degenerative. He also pointed out that a significant number of athletes have had the same back surgery and come back to perform well.

Even so, Romo said he understands he won’t convince doubters of his health by throwing in off-season drills.

"Any time someone goes through surgery, there’s always that sort of talk. You have to just go out and play," Romo said.

"For me I think it’s warranted. But at the same token, some people will be proven right and some people will be proven wrong."

Romo said the surgery gave him immediate relief from the pain in his back. The pain of not being able to play in the Cowboys’ final game, with a playoff berth on the line, took longer to subside.

"It was hard to watch," Romo said. "I watched it at the house with a couple of family members. …It was as big a game as we’ve played in the last year. It was obviously tough to watch because you want to be there. And having a game to get into the playoffs at home, that’s a big difference between being on the road."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire