Tony Romo showed up to training camp in 2003 as the unknown fourth quarterback, though carrying big dreams along with the clipboard.
On Sunday, he was greeted by cheering fans and a media horde, a $108 million franchise quarterback with even bigger dreams.
“It still feels like not too long ago,” Romo said Sunday after the Dallas Cowboys’ first training camp practice. “…The same feeling I get going out on a Sunday is the same feeling a high school kid gets going out on a Friday night. They’re excited. They’re energetic. They’ve put in a lot of time and effort. It means a lot to them. It means everything to them. That aspect of it doesn’t change no matter where you are. Sometimes your surroundings change a little bit.
“…It’s just a different goal. Now, it’s not trying to make the team. Now, it’s trying to win a championship. Now, it’s trying to get better, so we can take the next step. Now, it’s just that feeling that you have. But it’s still that desperate kind of act of wanting to take that next step. There’s just another step always. It’s going to be the same thing even after we get that job done.”
Romo, 33, practiced for the first time since Dec. 28. He missed three months after undergoing what the team described as a minor procedure on his back.
Dr. Drew Dossett, a spine specialist for the Cowboys, removed a cyst in April, forcing Romo to miss all of the team’s off-season practices. Romo said he began throwing six weeks ago.
“They describe this as a micro procedure as opposed to some of the other back injuries that guys have to deal with,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “So you’ve got to err on the side of caution in the off-season with all these guys, particularly coming off any kind of procedure they might have.”
Romo still is dealing with soreness in his back, something he said he will “monitor” each day. The Cowboys also will keep an eye on Romo’s right arm, though they don’t have him on a “pitch count.”
“We’re just going to see if he starts getting soreness or starts losing velocity, gets camp arm or anything like that that we would back off him a little bit since he hadn’t thrown a ton in the spring,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said.
The Cowboys list Romo’s weight at 236 on the roster they distributed Sunday. That is 6 pounds heavier than what they listed last season and 12 pounds heavier than in 2007 when he started a season for the first time.
But Romo said he weighs between 227-230, “depending on the day you catch me.” And Garrett said Romo is only 1 pound over his prescribed playing weight.
Romo has spent the past two weeks in Southern California, working on his conditioning at a boot camp. It included running in the mountains.
“It just got me where I needed to be, and you just mentally get right into it focused and get after it,” Romo said. “My objective was to have my off-season over this last month and a half.
“I worked as hard as I could, and I took that approach every day I woke up that I just had to improve a lot each day, and I think that helped me get ready for today and hopefully for the beginning of the season. It’s still a ways off, and I’ve got to get better, same as this football team.”