Gritty Tony Romo showing Cowboys he can lead by example
By BRANDON GEORGE
Dallas Morning News
ARLINGTON – Tony Romo may never become more than a very good regular-season quarterback for the Cowboys, but it’s hard to deny how much he’s grown in the eyes of his teammates the last few weeks.
If anyone doubted Romo in the Cowboys’ locker room going into the San Francisco game, that is no longer an issue.
Romo bashers – and I’ve been one at times – can’t say anymore that the quarterback lacks passion for and commitment to football because of his off-the-field interests in golf and his seemingly laid-back demeanor (the smiling, the backwards cap, his past comments about how football isn’t life or death).
After Romo played the last two weeks with a broken rib – and even a punctured lung against San Francisco – his toughness and dedication to football is undeniable.
Before leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington on Monday night, Romo took two pain-killing shots so he could play. He wore a protective vest to help with the pain as well.
Leading up to the game, he hurt so badly that he had to sleep in a chair and couldn’t even go through all the team’s pre-practice stretching routine Saturday because of his pain.
“The team is actually seeing what he’s about,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the win over the Redskins, “and it’s very tangible, but boy that’s going to be a big asset for us going forward.”
It was a big asset for the Cowboys before the Redskins’ game.
Second-year wide receiver Dez Bryant warmed up before the Washington game – testing out his deep quadriceps bruise – and said it “is killing me.”
Bryant had done the same thing the week before at San Francisco and shut it down. He was inactive against the 49ers. But now, with Romo leading the way by playing despite a broken rib and having punctured his lung the week before, Bryant said he had to play Monday. How could he sit out again with a bruise when Romo was setting an example of playing despite a severe injury?
“But just watching Tony,” Bryant said, “I didn’t even care about my quad.”
See, that’s leadership. We can talk all about how Romo e-mailed his teammates to organize player-run summer workouts during the 4½-month NFL lockout and even how he used a whistle to lead the practices, but what Romo has done the last two weeks overshadows that threefold.
Suddenly, no one is barking about how Romo is 3-7 over his last 10 starts. Funny how that changes after a few gut-it-out victories.
Around here, it’s simple: Win games. Shut mouths. Change perceptions.
Q: Do you think there is a need to sign another veteran wide receiver to the roster, like a Randy Moss?
Chris Hewitt, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
GEORGE: This is a popular question this week. Several newsletter subscribers e-mailed and asked about signing Moss or – ahem – even Terrell Owens . There is no doubt the Cowboys are thin at receiver and could use another veteran, but signing Moss or Owens makes no sense for a team committed to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Despite the fact that Moss said this week he’d consider coming out of retirement and listed the Cowboys as a team he’d consider signing with, he’s just not a good fit in Dallas. Do you really want a young, impressionable Bryant being mentored by Moss and/or Owens? Austin is the complete opposite personality-wise than a Moss or Owens. It would be a bad move for locker room chemistry and set back the development of Bryant. Plus, Cowboys officials have made it clear: They have no interest in signing Moss, no matter the injury situation of Austin and Bryant.
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Q: Are some of the offensive line issues compounded by the fact that [Kyle] Kosier has switched from the left guard position to right guard to help out [rookie] Tyron Smith? Could we see him switch back soon and would this help at all on the blind side?
Eric Bender, Centennial, Colo.
GEORGE: Right now, the Cowboys should be more worried about the play of left tackle Doug Free. He’s struggled the last two weeks, especially in protecting Tony Romo. Against Washington on Monday, Free had two holding penalties and was beaten badly at least twice in trying to protect Romo. Tyron Smith has been the Cowboys’ best offensive lineman through the first three games. Maybe the Cowboys should consider switching Smith and Free more so than moving Kosier again.
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Q: In the middle of games, how come [Jason] Garrett doesn’t pull players who keep making stupid mistakes? After all, Jimmy Johnson did and I think this would be a good way to toughen up the team.
David Peeples, San Antonio
GEORGE: As a former player, Garrett knows the up-and-down nature of NFL football. He knows players are going to make mistakes at times and get exposed other times because of the fact they’re facing great players on the other team. So, unlike fans, Garrett doesn’t overreact to mistakes. That said, if a player continues to make mistakes and it’s obvious there’s an issue, Garrett has no problem replacing that player with someone who is ready to do the job. You saw that before the season started with cuts along the offensive line and the release of Marion Barber.
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Q: Was Dan Bailey’s performance [Monday night] enough to convince the Cowboys to cut David Buehler and open up a roster spot for another position?
Michael Haliburton, Arlington
GEORGE: Bailey, the undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State, was excellent Monday night. He made all six of his field goal attempts and – handling the kickoffs for the first time – had four of his seven kickoffs reach the end zone and two were touchbacks. However, I don’t believe the Cowboys are ready to cut Buehler. He consistently puts the ball out of the end zone for sure touchbacks. Bailey’s leg isn’t strong enough yet to do that, and Jerry Jones really values teams starting at the 20-yard line. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have kept two kickers in the first place. Plus, when the wind and weather become a factor on kickoffs more so on the road, the Cowboys will be better off with Buehler handling the kickoffs with his stronger leg.
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Q: Would it be too much to assume that based on the defensive play and all the injuries, the Cowboys – when healthy – can be one of the most-dominant teams in the NFL?
Darrie Naylor, Los Angeles
GEORGE: We probably shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves yet just because the Cowboys are 2-1 with close wins against San Francisco and Washington, two teams many believe won’t make the playoffs. The Cowboys’ defense has yet to be tested by a quality quarterback (that will change Sunday against Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, the former Highland Park standout). The Cowboys’ offensive line has struggled and the running game hasn’t been consistent enough yet. Let’s see how Felix Jones follows up his third career 100-yard game against Detroit and how the secondary responds to the Lions’ passing game before we crown this year’s Cowboys.