As a public service, the social media sector of the world-renowned Dallas Cowboys think tank posted a photo on Instagram this week of quarterback Tony Romo, back at practice, preparing to throw a pass.
Given the resident troll population, this was not an entirely good idea.
“He looks fat,” one user immediately commented.
“Yo, did he put on a couple of pounds?” another asked.
A third commenter wondered if Romo, dressed in his familiar No. 9, was also wearing “the largest pair of sweatpants in the world.”
This is why, of course, people can’t have nice things. There are always going to be wise guys.
In Romo’s defense, as of Thursday night, the picture did have 40,806 likes.
But let’s be realistic. As he prepares to return from a seven-game injury layoff, even Tony himself admits he has pondered the obvious question.
“My job is to hopefully not have the kind of rust that can happen after this type of layoff,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve had it before.”
Yes, he has. The 2014 season opener won’t make the list of Romo’s fondest NFL memories.
Returning from two back surgeries and a preseason in which he had been excused from seven practices and took only 48 snaps, Romo played like a guy who had just climbed off a gurney, not one who’d emerged from a phone booth in a cape.
His timing was off. His throws were less than crisp. Three interceptions later, Romo and the Cowboys were booed off the field at halftime trailing San Francisco 28-3.
“I’ve thought about that,” Romo said of the rust factor. “I’ve tried to do certain things to help that.”
But it’s the NFL. On Sunday in Miami, Romo will be facing the 307 pounds of oncoming nastiness known as Ndamukong Suh.
How do you prepare for that? Let the neighbor chase you in his pickup truck?
The challenge is different from the one that Romo faced coming back from his back surgeries. In those, there was a period of adjustment when he had to figure out what the mending back would allow him to do.
A broken shoulder, on the other hand, as Romo put it, “heals … but it is a bone.”
The shoulder has healed enough for Romo to play, in other words, but it will be easier to fracture again.
Which is where Suh comes in. Playing for the Detroit Lions in 2013, Suh cheap-shotted Minnesota’s John Sullivan maliciously enough to incur a $100,000 fine, the largest levied for on-field misbehavior. Suh’s rap sheet also includes roughing up Jay Cutler, deliberately stepping on Aaron Rodgers’ calf and kneeing Matt Schaub in the groin.
So if I were Romo, I wouldn’t be sweating the Instagram stuff.
“There could be easier starting spots than this,” Romo said of the trip to Miami.
Romo said if nothing else, the long layoff this season has served his post-surgical back well. But how can he know that, really, until he gets chased around and tackled at full speed? He is 35 years old.
And four days after the trip to Miami, Romo and the Cowboys have a Thanksgiving Day game against a tough Carolina Panthers team.
From the gurney to two games in five days?
“My job is to get us in good plays, throw the ball accurately, get it to the guys, and let them make plays,” Romo said.
If it were that easy, though, the Cowboys may not have lost seven games in a row while Romo was healing.
The November-December has never been easy for Romo anyway. Before last year’s run, his regular-season record as a starter after Thanksgiving was 20-19.
Who knows which Romo will show up Sunday? The rested one or the rusty one?
With a 2-7 record, a team might as well find out.