Tony Romo insists he has accomplished a lot this off-season, but the Dallas Cowboys quarterback won’t rest on his success. He and Dez Bryant begin working together next weekend.
Bryant sat out team drills during the off-season program, taking part only in the team’s walk-throughs during minicamp and some individual drills while rehabbing from surgery on his right foot and right ankle.
“There’s a schedule in place,” Romo said. “We’re going to be out there. He needs to just run routes and simulate two-minute [offense]. You’ve got to do these little things that emulate practice and games, and the only way to do that is to get out on the football field and go do it.
“Now, the hard part is having the defensive back right in front of your face and dealing some of those other little things. But you can do just about everything from your own physical standpoint when it comes to your lungs, your technique, the stuff that you do as if it were off coverage.
“Once you get to camp, it will take just a little bit of time to get the other stuff back. But he’s played the game long enough that it won’t take him much time. We just need him healthy. And when he’s healthy, that stuff comes very fast.”
Romo and Bryant played fewer than 130 snaps last season and connected for only 11 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Receivers coach Derek Dooley estimated Romo and Bryant have practiced together only 15 days since the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers to end the 2014 season.
“There’s nothing to knock the rust off,” Bryant said. “It’s something me and Tony established a long time ago. It’s something that can’t fade because that’s something we had truly committed ourselves to, being on the same page. It’s all about tuning in and going to work.”
Romo, 36, played only four games last season, twice fracturing his left collarbone. But, after preventive surgery on the collarbone this off-season, Romo insists he’s right where he needs to be.
“I’m throwing the ball as well as I ever have,” Romo said. “I think a lot of that is just based on years of trying to perfect your craft and get to a point where you feel very confident from multiple launch angles throwing the football with people around your feet, in front of you, you can’t step into it, you can, sliding left, having to move a little to the right, throwing across yourself, throwing out in front, drag routes, people who are stationary. There’s a lot of little things that come up from the quarterback position as far as the angle and launch point of the release. I feel like that’s a big thing I’ve been working on was a certain technique to that.
“Now that I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish doing it everyday, it’s been a few years of trying it. I feel like now this off-season when I wake up, it’s there everyday. That’s pretty exciting. I think that’s part of what has allowed me to, once you are there, now you can start playing with your footwork and doing things to technically, like I said, try to perfect your craft. I’m just excited that I get to throw and practice those things.”
The Cowboys appear as excited as Romo about the way his off-season went. They missed him last year, going 3-1 with him and 1-11 without him.
“I like the way he’s feeling,” owner Jerry Jones said. “… I think it’s comfort seeing him get these reps.”
Romo had back surgeries that limited him during the 2013 and 2014 off-seasons. Although Romo went through the full off-season program in 2015, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Romo is moving better than he has in a few years.
“He looks more athletic than he has in the last couple of years,” Wilson said. “I think that’s part of his back issues and the rehab of that. He’s bringing a lot of energy as well. So those are all good positive things for our team.”
Romo, who has taken Wednesdays off during the season since early in 2014, doesn’t yet know his plan after training camp. All he knows is he feels great.
“I’m always going to have to deal with strengthening the back and that area,” he said. “It’s gotten stronger. There’s no question about that. I’ve been able to work much harder at it. At the same time, you can’t disregard the history. So we’ll have a good, long discussion and we’ll probably toy with it in camp and really it will be based on the feeling of throwing the football each day. But sometimes, once you are taking hits on top of it, you just got to ensure that you are able to be at your best on Sundays, and sometimes that requires you doing a lot more in the weight room and off the field things that you guys don’t see.
“When you are feeling great, you are able to do both. That’s what’s happened this off-season so far. I’ve been able to do both. If that continues, that’s obviously a route you’d like to take. You just don’t know with the number of days that you really are throwing. … Part of me thinks it will stay the same and part of me says we’ll see.”
Cowboys key dates
July 28: Training camp opens in Oxnard, Calif.
Aug. 13: Preseason game
at Los Angeles Rams
Aug. 19: Preseason game
vs. Miami Dolphins
Aug. 25: Preseason game
at Seattle Seahawks
Sept. 1: Preseason game
vs. Houston Texans
Sept. 11: Regular season opener vs. New York Giants