Gil LeBreton

Will Tony Romo be bothered by rookie’s shadow?

Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, a fourth-round draft pick, throws during the team’s rookie minicamp.
Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, a fourth-round draft pick, throws during the team’s rookie minicamp. AP

Here we go again.

At a recent public sighting, Tony Romo, Owner Jones’ quarterback for life, was asked about the health of his recovering right shoulder.

“It’s been good,” Romo answered. “No problems.”

And that’s where the Dallas Cowboys’ future became clear to me, because what does Tony Romo do best, besides pile up the Sunday fantasy football numbers?

He denies. He massages the message. He blows smoke up our proverbial posteriors.

And he’s doing it again.

I asked my cousin the orthopedic specialist what the Cowboys should expect from a quarterback whose broken clavicle underwent surgery as recently as March 8.

Quote the doctor: “I’d make him sit at least six months. The last thing he needs is some big lineman falling on him again.”

Romo, alas, always seems to shrug away that possibility, as if such a hit would be random.

You’ve all heard him. To Tony, cross-examined after Cowboys games, defeats become lessons learned. Atonement is always just a week of film study and practice time away.

For the first time, however, Romo, who just turned 36, has had to deal with queries about his football mortality. The end is near, Romo keeps getting reminded and reminded.

And soon he will find himself sharing the same locker room with the man who would be king —Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.

A rookie, yes, but a fourth-round rookie selection. A quarterback that the Cowboys, despite needing defensive help, felt that they had better draft right then.

They wanted one sooner, owner Jerry Jones revealed during the NFL Draft. He gushingly admitted that he was ready to pull the trigger on a deal with Seattle in order to select Memphis’ Paxton Lynch.

Lynch, who instead went to the Super Bowl champion Broncos, would have been an outstanding choice. He didn’t play in a Power Five conference, but his performance against Ole Miss last season vividly suggested that that shouldn’t be a problem.

Prescott, meanwhile, was a solid alternative. At one point during the 2014 season, Prescott’s Mississippi State Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Mississippi State. Stark-Vegas.

And it’s exactly that charisma, that impact on the field, that makes me think Prescott will cast a broader shadow over Romo than Tony would prefer.

That’s not saying that Prescott is better than Romo. Just healthier — and more likely to be on the field in December, than the fragile Romo.

Romo will have to decide how that narrative goes. History tells us that quarterback controversies have never simmered quietly with your beloved Cowboys.

Danny White had to deal with Gary Hogeboom’s shadow. Quincy Carter had his support group; Chad Hutchinson had the others.

Romo has never had a young heir apparent learning at his side. How will he handle it? How will the fans handle it, once they’ve seen how well a younger, fresher and more mobile Prescott can play?

Romo’s predictable optimism over his return from a surgery that was performed only two months ago likely won’t alter his schedule. He will be reduced to cameo appearances at OTAs, minicamps, QuikTrip openings and training camp, because that’s the way the Cowboys have always done it with him.

You’re going to see a lot of Dak Prescott, in other words. And that’s a good thing.

How Romo handles it will frame the soap opera sidebar that will shadow the whole year.

This should be, uh, fun.

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