Gil LeBreton

Romo practices, because his clock is ticking down

Tony Romo made news of sorts Tuesday by practicing his fourth consecutive day with his balky back.
Tony Romo made news of sorts Tuesday by practicing his fourth consecutive day with his balky back. AP

And all this time, we thought Tony Romo was running around because he’s, well, Tony Romo.

Jedi Tony.

Never-Let-the-Play-Die Tony.

Tony Romo, celebrity quarterback.

At age 35 and after 13 years with the Dallas Cowboys, though, Romo has a balky back and makes news now when he shows up for practice four days in a row.

“Yeah, it’s a really big day,” Romo smirked Tuesday, when a reporter asked whether it was a post-surgery Tony milestone of sorts.

Of all the Romos — Work-Harder-Get-Better Tony, Artsy-Craftsy Tony, etc. — smirking Romo has become my favorite. It’s the Romo who realizes, finally, that it isn’t all about the money. Or the dimples.

Oh, he still has plenty of Jerry Jones’ cash and both dimples. But it’s as if, now 35 and married with two kids, he at last realizes that he’ll be remembered for how many Vince Lombardis he holds, not Jessica Simpsons.

When he was asked Tuesday morning whether his current propensity to remain in the pass pocket was a concession to his bad back, Romo moved quickly to correct the public perception.

“I think if you ever sat down and watched tape,” he began, “you’d find that me in the pocket is probably a little bit higher level play than you probably understand.

“When I say that, I mean that obviously you get credit for making a guy miss and making a play, but that might happen twice in a game. I think the real gift of playing the quarterback position is, for me, getting through five guys in 1.3 seconds. I feel that doesn’t come across every week. For me, I think that’s probably been more my gift — the ability to get through that and process information, and have spatial awareness all in one second.”

That, frankly, is an awfully proud self-assessment for a guy who’s won, what, two playoff games?

Forgive my own spatial awareness, but was Tony saying that all these years, we have wrongly miscast him as a guy who will scramble and refuse to let a play die?

“Oh, I don’t know,” Romo said, letting a smile replace his smirk. “I mean, hey, give me credit for running around and making plays. Sure.

“But it’s about winning. You’re going to get credit for winning. That’s what it comes down to.”

And on that, Romo is exactly correct. Just as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are revered in Cowboys franchise lore for winning championships and Danny White was under-appreciated because he came up short, Romo’s legacy is tied to what happens next.

And at age 35, how many nexts can there be?

Want a metaphor for Owner Jones’ 27th Cowboys team? It is Jones, age 72, riding on a golf cart at this training camp because he had hip replacement surgery, and it’s Romo, measuring his back discomfort and slowly walking back to his room following practice.

Tony is right. Forget the scrambling. It’s become only about the winning.

“We’re stronger now than we were before,” Romo said, making the pronoun plural but very much referring to himself and his back.

“If I feel I can go, I’m going to go. Practice to me is very enjoyable. It’s competitive. We can get better.”

Of course, therefore, Tony Romo went to practice again Tuesday.

There are only so many nexts.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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