After the game, all everyone could do was laugh.
Owner Jerry Jones joked that he was going to check into a Seattle hospital for heart issues, delaying his trip back to Dallas.
Of course, this was after Jones spent the first quarter of the Dallas Cowboys’ 27-17 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks on bended knee praying like never before.
The sight of quarterback Tony Romo crunched on the ground and grabbing his back on the third play of the game following the perfect storm of a hit from Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril was almost too much for Jones to take.
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The career of the 36-year-old quarterback with known back issues and the team’s 2016 season flashed before Jones’ eyes.
But then Romo got up and walked off the field. The pain had dissipated and the Cowboys season was back on track. And while he didn’t return because coach Jason Garrett wanted to play it safe, Romo admitted he and the Cowboys dodged a bullet.
“At the moment when you go down, you crunch so your back gets squished, I guess you could say,” Romo explained after the game. “You almost feel a sensation as if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder. It just feels hot for a second. That dissipates after a minute and you’re OK, all of those things you felt before with back injuries, those are all fine. Then you’re strength comes back and you’re like OK. It just takes a little bit. Then it was a coaching decision to not go back out.”
There are those who will point to the hit as evidence toward Romo’s tenuous status for the Cowboys, considering he missed 12 games last year after twice-fracturing his left collarbone and hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2012. He had back surgeries following the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Romo said the hit, which came as he was attempted to slide and Arvil grabbed him from behind, and his subsequent recovery is an example of how far he’s come and the strength in his back.
“That was a perfect timed situation,” Romo said. “I was going into a slide. It’s a perfect storm as far as the slide and going down. The fact we dodge a bullet is a good thing. I also think probably from the back being stronger allowed me to probably get through that. In a weird way, I feel good about the fact that was probably as tough of a hit I’ve taken on the back as I’ve had in the last five years. From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and I can keep going.”
After being the ground surrounded by medical personnel, Romo walked off the field. The Cowboys tended to him on the sideline. He took some snaps and even threw some passes. He lobbied to go back in the game.
The Cowboys didn't do an X-ray on Romo's back.
“I think initially he was in a little bit of shock and didn’t feel real good,” Garrett said. “Once a little time went by, I think he was feeling better and better and better. We don’t think there’s anything serious. He was campaigning to get back into the game. We just thought it was in best interests of him and our team that we keep him out.”
Jones praised Garrett for making the right decision, but said the Romo scare doesn’t raise his anxiety level about aging quarterback’s ability to play 16 games and his long-term future.
“I don’t think it does at all,” Jones said. “I just think, we, everyone had a scare. He wanted to go back in. He could have gone back in and played. But I praise Jason. It was his decision. After that you couldn’t afford for him to get hurt. You would’ve lost everybody had he walked back out there and gotten hurt, whether it was as a result of the first one or not. That was the smart thing to do for the team, for everybody involved here is to call it a night for him. Certainly nothing at stake there.”
Jones is just glad Romo didn’t get hurt and he was able to joke about the situation after the game.
But he acknowledges that the injury will make the Cowboys think long and hard about carrying three quarterbacks on the roster. Rookie sensation Dak Prescott is a lock behind Romo as the backup quarterback, Jones said. But now third quarterback Jameil Showers has a chance to stick.
“Yes. We will give this a good going over,” Jones said. “The point is we would have with or without tonight. But this is a very serious reminder where we are and what we are dealing with here in terms of our game. You are one play away.”
That will likely be evaluated in the preseason final against the Houston Texans next Thursday at AT&T Stadium. Prescott and Showers are set to split the game in half.
Romo is expected to sit out the preseason final to make sure he is healthy and ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.
Romo heads into the regular season with just 15 snaps of work in the preseason. He sat out the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, played just two series against the Miami Dolphins before leaving after three plays against the Seahawks.
That’s not a lot of preparation for quarterback who played only four games in 2015 and was sidelined for the season following a second fractured collarbone on Thanksgiving Day.
“I felt great for camp,” Romo said. “I felt great going into the game last week, same this week. I feel very comfortable. I just know my job is to get ready to play in the game and I feel very good about our football team and our offense going forward. I think you guys can see that we have a chance to be a good unit.”