Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still hopeful that quarterback Tony Romo will play against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, despite a possible herniated disc in Romo’s back that could require surgery.
Romo is getting treatment and the doctors will make a final determination on his status later in the week.
The Cowboys are getting backup Kyle Orton ready to start if necessary – a situation Jones prepared for when he signed Orton before the 2012 season.
"We paid a lot of money several years ago for just this very circumstance," Jones said on his radio show on KRLD-FM Tuesday morning. "Should we be in a situation where a game or a possible intermittent time when Tony couldn’t play, we get the very best we can, and that’s why we signed Kyle Orton for over $10 million a few years ago, just for this very occasion. Kyle has a very strong arm, he’s very experienced. If required, he’ll be able to step in and do as good under the circumstances as you could expect."
The Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, with a $5 million signing bonus, before the 2012 season as an insurance policy.
He is 35-34 in his career as a starter, but has played only three games – all in mop-up duty – since Dallas signed him. Orton completed 17 of 22 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason.
"I want to emphasize that this backup quarterback was a starter," Jones said. "It was unique that he would come here when he had real starting possibilities. We are going to get the benefit from him should he play."
In the meantime, the Cowboys will sign Jon Kitna as a backup quarterback, according to a source. Kitna played with the Cowboys from 2009-2011.
Kitna played in 13 games with the Cowboys, including nine starts during the 2010 season when he passed for 2,365 yards and 16 touchdowns with 12 interceptions after replacing the injured Romo in the lineup.
Jones said the Cowboys have enough weapons on offense to win with Orton.
He certainly feels better about the Cowboys making up for the loss of Romo with what they have around Orton on offense than relying on the team's last-place defense to pick up the slack.
"We got enough offense with Kyle," Jones said. "We’ve got a lot of great players around Tony. Our offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds from the beginning of the year. With the wide receivers we got and the backs we got, I think we got a better supporting cast on offense. I'm not minimizing losing Tony. But we’ve got a better supporting cast to win a ball game and to do what we need to do to win than what we have on defense. There is a little more margin there for us to make due. That will serve us well."
Jones said when he got the call from Romo Monday morning about his medical situation his emotions immediately went to Orton.
"How do we compensate? What do we do here? It immediately goes to Kyle Orton," Jones said. "It’s what it is, and if you don’t realize that you’re going to be dealing with injury information, sudden change in plans, then you’re in the wrong area. I’ve had a lot of years when that information that you hear on the other end of the phone is not what you wanted to hear with your left hand and with your right hand, reach over there and make decisions to do as well as you possibly can.
"Again, we’re in as good a shape under the circumstances that you could possibly be in and I have every reason to think that, if needed, Kyle Orton can step out there and do a good job for us. We had planned on this very event. We have been very fortunate with Romo on his injury situation.
“He [Orton] hasn’t played as much as I would have thought when I agreed to give him over $10 million three years ago. Because of how important that position is you just have to anticipate to some degree what happens if you lose Tony Romo. In this case, we have done it. We did it. I'm proud that we have done it. We are ready to utilize it this weekend.”