Football / Sports

Tony Romo claims his best is yet to come

OXNARD, Calif. -- Tony Romo has won 64 games in his NFL career, while passing for 29,565 yards and 208 touchdowns. Now 34, and coming off two back surgeries over the past 15 months, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback insists his best is yet to come.

"I'm sure one day when I'm 45, the body will tell me I'm done playing," Romo said. "But I feel, personally, like I've just started to come into the player that I wanted to be six, seven years ago. I think over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me that I've had throughout my career.

"That's for a lot of different reasons, but I really believe that, and I believe that will show as we go forward. So I'm excited about that. As my body continues to get healthier and healthier, it's going to be better."

Romo addressed his past, his present and his future during a wide-ranging, 21-minute interview with the media Thursday. The Cowboys don't have Romo on a "pitch count" per se, but they continue to be cautious with their franchise quarterback.

Romo didn't participate in the team portion of the off-season workouts, and it was much the same on the first practice of training camp.

Despite proclamations that his surgically repaired back is 100 percent, Romo took only limited snaps during the team period before donning a baseball cap. (The offense and the defense practiced on separate fields Thursday and won't go against each other until Saturday.)

"I could have gone through all of them, but today, without going against the defense, I felt like, 'Let's be smart,' " Romo said. "Talking with the trainers and coaches and coming up with a plan, there was a certain number we were going to throw, and I was able to hit that before I got through it.

"I was like, 'I could keep going, but we have this process going in, and we're going to stick with it.' "

Romo said he is experiencing no pain, but he does rehab 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day. He laughed when asked if he needed to take a hit to know exactly where he is in his rehab.

"No, I'm good," Romo said. "I think hits are going to come. They usually have a way of finding you. I think you just play, and you get hit, and you get up and go play again. ... You're going to get hit so just keep going."

The Cowboys will try to keep Romo from getting hit in the preseason, but once the season starts, they can't afford to worry about his back. Dallas has used three first-round draft picks on offensive linemen the past four seasons, including guard Zack Martin this year, to provide Romo with the best protection possible.

Still, as Romo said, he is guaranteed of getting hit this season.

"Nobody can predict it," said Scott Linehan, the team's passing game coordinator. "If you sit around and concern yourself with guys having issues or injuries, you're never going to sleep at night. He's worked his butt off and all indications are that he'll be just fine, and that's how we're approaching it."

The Cowboys expect the same Romo who threw 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games last season, only better.

"You knew that he was going to come back better because of 1/8the back injury3/8," tight end Jason Witten said. "I never questioned it. I don't think our team questioned it. He's a really good athlete and done a great job of getting himself ready. I thought he looked great, and I know he's excited for a big year."

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