IRVING, Texas — Not knowing who the starting quarterback will be puts an extra challenge on the Cowboys as they prepare to face the 6-1 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
If starter Tony Romo can’t recover from a back contusion in time, backup Brandon Weeden will get the start.
So far it hasn’t been a major disruption because Romo has had a lighter practice load this season because of prior back surgery. Romo hasn’t practiced this week but is still involved in off-field preparations despite suffering the effects of taking a knee to the back during Monday night’s loss to Washington.
"He hasn’t been practicing on Wednesday all year, so that part of it wasn’t too different," tight end Jason Witten said Thursday. "He’s been real active in the meetings, like he always is. I know he’s put a lot of time in trying to get healthy."
Romo has a history of playing with pain and has often taken pain-killing shots in order to take the field. That makes it harder to gauge whether he will return Sunday.
While the Cowboys would obviously be better off with their No. 1 quarter-back, if he isn’t going to play it’s better to know now. Weeden says he prepares as if he’s going to play every week, but that’s not the same as knowing you’re going to start.
Not knowing who will start could affect the preparation and focus of the rest of the team, too.
"We have to prepare with Brandon and he’s done a good job out there," Witten said. "But I know what Tony’s made of so we’ll just continue to let him heal up and see how it plays out."
But the fact Romo is still part of the equation leaves some uncertainty.
"I think as players you really can’t get involved in that," Witten said. "You let it play out and continue to prepare and communicate with Brandon like we need to."
Weeden played well on two drives after Romo left the game with the back in-jury. He led the Cowboys to two scores and Witten said he did a good job of taking charge of the huddle.
"He should have a lot of confidence from what he did on Monday," Witten said. "He did a good job for us. Playing that position, it’s a mental game to stay prepared and I think he’s done a good job of that and taken advantage of those opportunities."