IRVING -- Tony Romo is a long way from being ready for Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.
But the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who suffered a fractured rib and punctured lung against San Francisco on Sunday, is taking baby steps toward getting there.
Romo didn't practice on Thursday. He was on the field, gingerly going through stretching exercises with his teammates and then watching them go through practice while wearing an electronic stimulation treatment device on his ribs.
Romo has been in intense pain whether he is walking, talking, coughing or laughing.
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His presence on the practice field is a good sign that he is pointing toward playing Monday.
Romo didn't talk to the media Thursday because of a doctor's appointment, but as he was walking out the door he said he was feeling much better.
The official word from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is that Romo is day-to-day and will continue to be evaluated him as the week goes on.
While Garrett backed down from his comments Monday that based on Romo's performance against the 49ers that he didn't see a reason why Romo wouldn't play against the Redskins, he also sounded optimistic.
"I'm not a medical person, so I'm probably not the most qualified guy to answer that question. He did play over 2 1/2 quarters with this thing the other day. I think there are probably degrees in there of healing that I think the doctors want to make sure he has before we'll put him back out there," Garrett said.
"He was not able to practice today, but he was out there, staying involved with our team and engaged with our game plan."
Romo's teammates are taking their belief in all things Romo one step further after Sunday's heroic comeback.
"We just need Romo to be Romo," linebacker Bradie James said. "The legend has begun. Punctured lung and all. Whatever it is -- punctured spleen, kidney, whatever it is, he's going to be out there."
Backup quarterback Jon Kitna took all the snaps with the first team Thursday and will probably do so the rest of the week. And he knows he'll probably be holding the clipboard Monday night.
"It's really Tony's decision for how he feels he can execute," Kitna said. "I fully expect him to play."
The words of his teammates speak volumes to how far he has come not only in a week, after he was widely criticized for two turnovers in the season-opening loss to the New York Jets, but in a year. His leadership was questioned even before he missed the final 10 games of 2010 with a fractured collarbone.
"It was very gutty," ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "He loves to play. That's why I'm not surprised he showed the true warrior that he is against San Francisco. It was a vicious shot. You could tell when he went down he was hurt. But I love what he did. He played. He went as far as he could. Hey, that wins the locker room, man. That to me, that's the key part."
You win the locker room and you become the leader that your teammates, such as James, don't want to play without, former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin said.
"We try to anoint the quarterback as a leader," Irvin said. "But the reality is you will not be a leader until people see that the game means more to you than your own body means to you. That was leadership.
"We all say the quarterback is the leader of the team. No, he's the director of the team. A leader gets everybody playing their best as they go this way. That's what Tony Romo was doing the other day."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.