Tony Romo can joke about it now. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback isn’t about to let the herniated disk that sidelined him for last season’s finale and that required surgery keep him down.
After the first day of the Cowboys’ organized team activities, Romo made light of his limited work and his age. He said he still is waiting for the return of his “4.4 speed,” and at 34, he pointed out that he remains younger than most of the reporters covering the team.
Romo isn’t worried about his present or his future, insisting he has a lot of football left in him this year and beyond.
“I think I’m going to play for a lot longer,” Romo said in his first group interview since Dec. 22. “I know it’s a big discussion when you’re coming back from surgery, but by the same token, I wouldn’t be surprised if I played another five or six years, either.”
Romo participated in the walk-through portion of practice and some of the individual drills before donning a baseball cap. He watched the team drills from the sideline, giving way to backups Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan.
“We just wanted to make sure he didn’t overdo anything,” Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. “He was just going to be throwing until he started feeling he’s done enough.”
Romo injured his back during the Week 16 victory over the Washington Redskins. He missed the win-or-go-home finale, watching the loss to the Eagles on TV only two days after surgery.
“I just think it was not being able to be out there for your football team,” Romo said. “I’ve played through a lot of things in my career and feel like in some ways if you can walk, you’ll find a way to play. That was tough.”
Romo started throwing at full velocity some four to six weeks ago. The injury altered his off-season workout program, with more focus on his core, his glutes and his hamstrings.
“The human body is an amazing thing,” Romo said. “It gives you a great opportunity to get better. I think I’ll be able to play for quite a bit longer.”
Romo already is ahead of where he was this time last year. He had back surgery in April 2013 to remove a cyst and missed all of the team’s off-season work.
Although he’s not yet 100 percent, Romo and the Cowboys maintain that the quarterback is right on schedule to return full-go for training camp.
“He is where he is,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s worked very hard at it, really like all our injured players have. They make progress. We have to make sure as an organization we do the right things by these guys through these OTAs.”
Romo’s second back surgery in two years raised questions about his future with even Hall of Famer Troy Aikman worrying about Romo’s return to form.
The Cowboys, though, didn’t draft a quarterback earlier this month, passing on Johnny Manziel in the first round. They have kept their faith in Romo, whom they rewarded with a six-year, $108 million extension a year ago.
“I just think what happens out on the field speaks volumes about everything,” Romo said. “I don’t go out to do anything other than to get myself healthy and play the best football that I can and leave everything I can on the field. When I’m done with the Dallas Cowboys, I promise I will have left my entire body with that team. That’s the way you want it to be. That’s why you chase after. You’re so committed to what you’re doing. It’s important.”
The Cowboys waived injured rookie free agent tight end Evan Wilson of Illinois and signed guard Tyronne Green of Auburn.