Gil LeBreton

Jones’ ‘reps’ remark shows that Romo’s Cowboys return is near

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is ready to play. He’s been a full participant in practice, but he hasn’t taken a hit.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is ready to play. He’s been a full participant in practice, but he hasn’t taken a hit. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

On TV each night, we see the latest practice report on Tony Romo.

We see Romo, feathering soft tosses to unseen pass receivers, and we’re told that the one-time Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback was “a full participant in practice.”

As opposed to, I assume, retreating to his locker in mid-workout for a brief nap.

What Cowboys fans really want to see, of course, is whether Romo can elude the likes of Cliff Avril and Jordan Hicks. They want to see what happens the next time a piano falls on him, as an NFL-sized Steinway certainly will.

Midweek practices, alas, preclude crash-test dummy drills for quarterbacks. So the next time Tony gets hit, it will count.

Which brings us to Sunday in Pittsburgh, when Romo is expected to shed the headset he’s been wearing and put on the foil.

Coach Jason Garrett addressed the dress rehearsal dilemma that NFL teams face once the season begins.

“It’s hard to simulate game-type conditions in practice,” Garrett said. “We try our best to create them. There’s no way that we can create them exactly like they’ll play out on a Sunday afternoon.

“We all know that we’re not tackling people in practice. We’re not hitting the quarterback in practice. Again, you try to simulate it as best you can.”

In Romo’s case, it’s been 50 weeks since he last played in an NFL regular-season game. He has played only one full game in the past 60 weeks.

As for Romo, Garrett said, revealing nothing, “He’s moving around well. He’s throwing the ball well. We’ll just see what he’s able to do and make our evaluation from there.”

The logical path, it says here, remains allowing Dak Prescott to remain the starter, but letting Romo take over in midgame for a full quarter at least twice over the next three games.

That could serve as Romo’s “preseason.” If Tony is still upright after his two spot duty appearances, Garrett can decide whether or when Romo replaces Dak.

And it sounds more like a matter of when, not whether. Owner Jones slipped — intentionally? — after the Cleveland victory and began his postgame remarks with, “I can’t believe Dak’s getting these reps, eight full games.”

Reps?! Reps, as in repetitions, are what football backups log in hopes of one day ascending into a starting role.

Note to Jerry: Prescott hasn’t just been logging reps. He’s logging wins.

Jones knows that, of course, but what is he going to do with Romo, who is healthy and may well be campaigning to play?

Remember this quote?

“The one unequivocal fact that you can count on … is that I’m planning on Romo being the quarterback for the next four or five years. That’s a fact,” Owner Jones said at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Things changed, however. Prescott fell from the heavens in the draft’s fourth round.

Jones would probably amend that quote now to “a couple of months, plus next year.” By the end of the 2017 season, Romo’s restructured bonus money could be more comfortably prorated over the remaining years of his contract.

Of all the possible scenarios, the one that seems hardest to fathom is a healthy Romo volunteering to stand on the sideline and watch Prescott start and quarterback the Cowboys for the rest of the season.

It would be disarmingly unselfish for a 10-year veteran quarterback to abdicate his starting position. I can’t imagine Romo doing it.

No one at Cowboys, Inc., has ever told him no to anything. Why would Jones start now?

In the meantime, Dak Prescott gets the reps.

And Cowboys fans await that piano.

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