For the dress rehearsal, quarterback Tony Romo was last spotted in a ballcap.
On the Dallas Cowboys bench. Sitting down. With a giant, imaginary question mark hanging over his head.
This wardrobe development came just three snaps into Thursday night’s Cowboys exhibition against the Seattle Seahawks. Romo, back to pass, was flushed from the pocket and took off to his left, where Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril closed on him.
Just as Romo slid, Avril landed, and the Cowboys quarterback appeared to hit the ground awkwardly, reaching for his back with a noticeable wince.
There was nothing unusual about the play, other than the odd way in which Romo landed. And therein lies the worry.
If Romo can get hurt on his first scramble of the preseason, how can the Cowboys hope that his back will stand up to the rigors and traumas of the coming season?
Officially, according to a Cowboys official, Romo was merely shaken up and could have returned to the game, but the coaching staff decided otherwise.
Romo’s total summer game ledger now includes three possessions and 16 snaps. If the coaches are OK with that, who are we to argue?
His absence opened the door again for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, and all that that implies.
Drafted in the fourth round, Prescott was expected to get in line this summer and find a good clipboard to hold onto. Though his chances of making the final roster were good, they were far from certain.
Yet, when young Prescott led the Cowboys on a seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive midway in Thursday’s first quarter, it marked the 10th time that he has started a drive and the 10th time the offense has scored.
Coming into Thursday’s game, the Mississippi State product was 22 for 27 passing for 338 yards, with four passing touchdowns and two rushes for touchdowns.
What other rookie NFL quarterback has done better? None.
The 10 points that Prescott put on the scoreboard against the Seahawks in the first half continued the pattern that he has shown since the exhibition opener in Los Angeles.
He stands confidently, if not toweringly, in the pocket. He seems to be making his reads, looking for his receivers. Linebackers seem to be respecting Prescott’s running ability.
His touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten appeared to be underthrown and somewhat easy to be intercepted, but Witten reached over Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright and plucked it away.
The point is, which unemployed quarterback on the open market can be counted upon to do better than Prescott has done? Or, if need be, what quarterback could the Cowboys trade for who could do better, and at what price?
The Cowboys tried the discard option last season, and it turned out badly. And if a second-team quarterback isn’t going to get them at least to the NFC championship game, what’s the point?
Prescott has a future, and that’s a start.
Romo, meanwhile, is going to be twisted and tackled awkwardly. This won’t be the last time he will wince.
Consider Thursday a dark reminder of that.
This was just a dress rehearsal, maybe in more ways than one.