Quarterback Tony Romo, who missed the final game of the 2013 season because of back surgery, is expected to be healthy and ready to go when the Dallas Cowboys begin their off-season program on April 21.
But the team still heads into the off-season with uncertainty at the quarterback position for 2014.
Backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who has one year left on his contract, has yet to commit to playing next season.
According to vice president Stephen Jones and several other team sources, Orton has talked about walking away and the Cowboys don’t know his status for 2014.
“No I don’t know [that he is coming back],” Jones said. “But I haven’t gone and asked him.”
Jones said he might or might not talk to Orton’s agent this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he will know for sure about Orton’s status before free agency begins March 11.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the team wants Orton to return, and he showed in the season finale against Philadelphia that he is still a quality backup for Romo.
If Orton decides to retire, he will have to reimburse the Cowboys a prorated amount of the signing bonus paid to him two years ago. That goes away if the Cowboys decide to release Orton for salary cap reasons.
Romo and Orton are the only quarterbacks on the roster. They were planning to sign at least one or two more to take to training camp even if Orton returned. If he doesn’t return, they could target a potential backup in free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.
Baylor guard Cyril Richardson played his junior season at 330 pounds. He said he weighed 345 last season, and stepped on the scale at 343 pounds at the Senior Bowl.
But when the North Crowley product weighed-in at the Scouting Combine on Thursday, he was down to 329.
“It was just being real strict on the diet, cutting back on a lot of things, like unnecessary breads, eating a lot more vegetables, typical weight loss thing,” Richardson said. “…I’m pretty dedicated to my workout plan and my diet. I don’t feel like it’s a really big challenge right now.
“I’ve proven to myself that I can do this, and I’ve proven to everyone else that I can. It shows in my results.”
Richardson isn’t done. He expects to lose even more before he begins his NFL season.
“I want to get a little lower, maybe 325 and just settle right there,” he said. “I think that’s a great weight to compete fast and to the best of my ability.”
Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews knows exactly what awaits him — comparisons. His father, Bruce, is a Hall of Famer who played 19 seasons and made 14 consecutive Pro Bowls.
“I think my earliest memory of him playing is when [the Tennessee Titans] went to the Super Bowl in ’99,” Jake Matthews said Thursday. “But I’ve gone back and looked at him. He was just a guy who played hard, finished, really impressive to watch. I’m proud to call him my father.
“…I’m trying to do the same thing he did, and if I could do half the things he did, I think I’d have a great career. It’s going to be hard to get to 19 years and 14 straight Pro Bowls. That could be difficult. That’s a pretty lofty goal to shoot for.”
Jake Matthews could be drafted higher than his father, who went ninth overall to the Houston Oilers in 1983. The St. Louis Rams hold the second pick and could use Matthews. Their coach, Jeff Fisher, coached Bruce Matthews in Tennessee.
“I knew him a little bit, not too well,” Matthews said of Fisher. “Obviously, my dad played for him, and he’s got a great relationship with him.
“I was just a kid running around while my dad was playing. There is that connection for sure, but I would love to play for him.”
The Cowboys will have a formal interview with A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Friday. Combine interviews last only 15 minutes.
It is a long shot that Dallas, drafting 16th, has any chance at Manziel, who is expected to be a top-four selection. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves Manziel’s skills, and Manziel grew up a Cowboys fan.
“Me growing up as a Cowboys fan – I was born at halftime of a Cowboys game – that would almost be a folktale in the correct direction,” Manziel told the Star-Telegram last week in San Diego of the possibility of the Cowboys drafting him. “We'd have to call that Johnny something else. I don’t know what it would be.”