Gil LeBreton

No joke — Tony Romo’s workload is just enough for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo practices the hard count during an afternoon walk-through at training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on Thursday.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo practices the hard count during an afternoon walk-through at training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on Thursday. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The jokes, admittedly, have become a tad cheap.

Henceforth, you’ll get no more “Tony Romo isn’t practicing today” gags from me.

Romo does not work less than TV’s Dale Hansen.

Romo does not need Google Maps to find the practice field.

And Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, has not missed so many practices that he still has that new car smell.

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

The reality is that it’s a prudent thing what the Cowboys are doing, allowing their most important player to eschew football practice for a couple of days each week.

The Cowboys saw what happened last year when Romo twice broke his left collarbone, forcing him to miss 12 games.

The Cowboys were 3-1 in the games that Romo quarterbacked. They went 1-11 in the games he missed.

But Romo is not watching practice at camp while lathered in bubble wrap. When he practices, he actually perspires. He has moved his feet well. His passes have been uncannily on target.

On any given practice day, when he’s participated, Romo has looked like the best player on the field.

So where’s the punch line?

At age 36 and with three surgeries since 2013 on his medical chart, Romo no longer has illusions that he’s as shifty as Michael Vick. If anybody is going to improvise to keep a play alive, it’s Travis Frederick or Tyron Smith or somebody else on the offensive line.

When Romo does practice, his preparation shows. He may well know the playbook better than offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Romo and his veteran receivers share a wavelength of their own.

He may not be getting faster or sturdier. But he clearly appears to be getting more accurate.

He says he understands all the “missed practice” jokes, trite as they are.

“It’s the same routine that I’ve been doing for years,” Romo said. “It allows my back to get as strong as can be.”

In general terms, Romo takes a day off — and sometimes two days — each time that he practices two days in a row.

Romo and the Cowboys think this is the routine that best allows him to recuperate between workouts.

And it’s not as if he stays in his camp room, bingeing on Netflix and Oreos on his days off.

“There’s a lot of things that go into camp besides practice,” he said. “There’s a ton of meeting time. There’s a ton of stuff in the weight room. There’s a lot of things that you do.”

If Romo did get to the practice field appearing rusty or unprepared, trust me — the media would howl. But he’s appeared anything but rusty. Romo and Dez Bryant put on a pitch-and-catch clinic against the Cowboys’ defense Thursday morning.

Recent Cowboys history tells us not to expect Romo to play at all Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Rams.

But don’t be shocked if coach Jason Garrett allows Romo to quarterback an offensive series or two. During Thursday’s workout, Romo was taking regular turns against a defense that was running Los Angeles Rams plays.

Why would he do that, if he wasn’t going to play Saturday?

The rest of the quarterback time is expected to be logged by rookie Dak Prescott and second-year player Jameill Showers.

“They’re both hard-working guys,” Romo said. “They set themselves up for being successful. I think they’ll continue to do good things on the field.”

In the meantime, owner Jerry Jones is presumed to continue to explore other options at No. 2 quarterback.

Don’t read anything into anything, however, if Romo gets another day or two off.

He needs the rest. His body needs the mending time.

It is, after all, only practice.

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