As news of Tony Romo’s retirement from the Dallas Cowboys spread Tuesday, the TV networks began a video loop of Romo-moments, over and over, the good and the bad.
The fumbled snap in Seattle. The touchdowns to Dez. The scrambles, back when he could do that sort of thing. That final touchdown pass in Philadelphia.
Roundtables were hastily convened. Correspondents weighed in by cell phone. It was as if some head of state or rock star had passed away.
But the Romo that eventually spoke with the media via conference call Tuesday afternoon was anything but maudlin and funereal. He rambled on for nearly 40 minutes, answering questions and cracking jokes, with his head clearly pointed towards the sunshine.
“I feel no ill will in any capacity,” the quarterback said of his long-expected departure from the Cowboys. “Stuff happens. For me, you move on to the next phase.
“For athletes you actually experience two deaths – the one in real life, and the other death is when you give up the game.
“But I’m not really thinking about the second death, as much as the real excitement I feel for the next step.”
That next step is beside Jim Nantz as the lead analyst on CBS’ NFL telecasts, replacing Phil Simms. It’s not exactly an entry-level position.
It’s a safe choice for a guy with collarbone and back surgeries in his recent past. But Romo seemed to downplay the life and limb aspects of his decision.
“Yeah, the health played a role,” he said. “But a big part of it was just that the closer I got, I was excited to have the opportunity.”
More than once during the call, curiously, Romo tried to frame a question about the R-word – his retirement from the NFL – into a reason to gush about learning to become a TV guy.
“I have a funny feeling I’m going to be really enjoying working in this craft,” he said.
When he was directly asked whether there was a chance he might replicate Brett Favre’s career path and unretire if a team called, Romo, soon to be 37, said he couldn’t envision such a scenario.
“You never say never,” Romo said. “But the reality is, that’s not going to happen. There’s no part of me that wants to play.
“Right now I am completely, 100 percent committed to CBS.”
The key words, of course, are “right now.”
If he had a quarterback job with a new team to prepare for, Romo himself suggested, the time to start preparing would be now, and he didn’t seem to be ready for that. CBS’ timing fit the Romo family schedule.
But why would Romo try to minimize concerns about his future health when he was headed to a broadcast booth?
Because it feeds the narrative that he is healthy and still capable enough to play. As long as Romo himself isn’t closing that door, he knows there likely will be a chance when the next NFL quarterback gets hurt.
He could have waited. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones granted him his unconditional freedom Tuesday by giving Romo his formal release.
Jones’ flimsy attempts in recent weeks to filch a draft pick or two in a trade were rebuffed, most notably by the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. Romo is now free to make his own deal – even if he did just agree to one with CBS.
He faces a steep learning curve behind the microphone, one would think. Romo is glib, but his new gig requires candor, and that has never been his style.
“I think I’ll be fine at critiquing players,” he said.
Maybe. But he’s no John Madden.
As Romo chattered Tuesday, it was hard not to wonder why a guy who spent 13 years in the NFL and earned more than $70 million – and with a wife expecting their third child – would feel the need to undertake a new career. He can’t truly need the money.
No, but Romo has always liked to walk the red carpet with the pretty girl on his arm. He got the pretty girl, but the big trophy eluded him.
Maybe Romo’s biggest fear was being out of sight, out of mind? He knows that putting his dimples on the CBS NFL telecasts each week will remind teams that he’s alive and available.
Health concerns? Just watch how fast Tony Romo can run from the broadcast booth.