Tony Romo gives firm indication he will play Sunday

Romo gives firm sign he will play

12/26/2011 11:19 PM

12/27/2011 3:42 AM

IRVING -- Tony Romo wasn't going out of his way to show reporters his hand Monday.

But he did stick it out for Jason Garrett, apparently.

"He has a relatively firm handshake," Garrett said coyly on Monday at Valley Ranch.

So that could be interpreted as encouraging news for the Dallas Cowboys, who face the prospect of preparing for their division-championship game on Sunday against the New York Giants without their starting quarterback.

The Cowboys already know they won't have their starting left guard. Montrae Holland was put on injured reserve with a strained left bicep, and owner Jerry Jones said in a radio interview that Derrick Dockery would start in his place.

As for Romo, Garrett gave no indication of his availability for practice on Wednesday, but said every test on the quarterback's bruised right hand has come back negative.

"It looks like it is getting better," Garrett said. "All the X-rays and tests that have come back are negative, which is a positive for us. It looks like the swelling is going down, and we are hopeful he can practice on Wednesday."

Romo bumped into reporters outside the locker room and hid his hand from view before heading into the training room.

Asked if the swelling had gone down, Romo shouted back from around the corner, "A little bit."

Romo won't meet with reporters until Thursday. By then, the Cowboys should have answers to their most basic questions.

"Can you take a snap? Can you grip the ball? Can you throw it? What's the ball look like when you throw it? Can you hand off?" Garrett said, when asked what he will be looking for to determine if Romo can play Sunday. "Really, it's a functional type thing. Can I take a snap? That's the first thing you have to evaluate, and then, how's he gripping it? How accurate is he when he's throwing it? Does everything have to be perfect for him to throw it well? Because as you know, that position is a spontaneous one, and he's certainly a spontaneous quarterback."

Romo's status is going to be of interest to everyone as the Cowboys seek to recover from a 3-4 start to win the NFC East.

"Having Tony is going to make us a much better team," safety Abe Elam said. "He is our leader. We are doing everything we can to have him in place. I'm believing in Tony. I know it's going to take a lot to keep him from playing in this game."

Romo put together one of his best games of the season when the Cowboys played the Giants the first time. He threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns and posted a 141.3 passer rating. He put the Cowboys in position to kick a game-tying field goal, but it was blocked, and the Giants won 37-34.

Asked if it's reasonable to expect Romo to play as well against the Giants the second time, considering his hand injury, Garrett said, "That's not really the point. He needs to play as well as he can play.... He's a tough guy. He's played through injury this year. He's a great competitor. He's excited about the chance to be a part of this thing."

Without Romo on Saturday, the Cowboys managed only seven points behind backup quarterback Stephen McGee in a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Romo can't play on Sunday, the job again belongs to McGee. Former backup Jon Kitna, who spelled Romo for most of the first half and third quarter at San Francisco in Week 2, was put on injured reserve two weeks ago because of his back.

"I thought Stephen handled himself well," Garrett said of McGee's outing against the Eagles. "He made some good plays with his feet and got himself out of trouble a couple of times. Obviously, you want to move the ball more efficiently and effectively throughout, but that's our whole offense. I thought he handled himself well, and he will learn from the experience."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

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