Football / Sports

Cowboys' Romo, untouched, looks like his old self

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Considering the night's other possibilities, which included:

The Baltimore Ravens' defense flattening Tony Romo like a crabcake;

Romo revealing himself to be as slow-moving as canned chili, or an under-practiced Tony, gassed and calling it quits after only a couple of snaps . . .

Considering what could have been the other possible outcomes to this, Romo's first game since his second back surgery, the night readily could be deemed an encouraging success.

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys lost again in the exhibition season, 37-30 to the Ravens, this time in front of the home crowd.

And, yes, Romo played only sparingly -- two series, 14 official plays.

But he looked almost life-like out there, this surgically repaired Romo. He handed off deftly. He passed capably and smartly.

He even threw, after a pump fake, a 31-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Dez Bryant.

"He looked good," Bryant assessed. "His mind was right. He was poised, and he went out there, knew what he wanted to do, and did it.

"He wanted to show the world he is '9' and he's a baller."

If this night was a statement, even a truncated, 14-play one, No. 9 made his point. He showed that a 34-year-old guy could have back surgery, sit out five of 16 training camp practices, and still be able to make plays.

"I thought he looked a lot like Tony Romo," coach Jason Garrett said.

Romo did, except he was never really touched by any onrushing Baltimore Ravens. The offensive line all but put a velvet rope around him.

Romo's lone brush with danger, as fate would have it, was a failed lunge and tackle of end-zone-bound Courtney Upshaw after a botched handoff.

Not quite a textbook tackle attempt, someone noted.

But as owner Jerry Jones said, absolving his $108 million quarterback, "He's graduated to business decisions."

After a few anxious seconds, Romo slowly climbed to his feet and jogged to the Cowboys' sideline. Owner Jones and the AT&T Stadium audience, presumably, then resumed breathing.

Officially, 11 of Romo's 16 snaps (two were penalties) ended in running plays. He was credited with four completions in five pass attempts, gaining 80 yards.

"I thought he looked comfortable," Garrett observed. "I thought he looked like himself and moved around in the pocket.

"He made some good throws that looked like he saw the field well. He felt the pocket really well, and he looked comfortable moving the team."

Considering the night's other options, it was an encouraging early critique.

Because you never know with back surgeries. As has been reported, Troy Aikman had back surgery before the 1993 season and came back to quarterback the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Aikman, however, was 26 when he had his surgery. Romo is 34, the same age at which Aikman later retired, in large part because of reinjuring his back on a hit by Jacksonville's 267-pound Tony Brackens.

There may well be Brackenses in Romo's future, but on this night Tony clearly benefited from the Cowboys' recent draft emphasis on offensive linemen.

"I was impressed with that protection and he was, too," said Owner Jones.

Romo's own personal assessment of the night was predictably positive and No. 9-ish.

"It felt good," he said. "It felt good to play football and just execute the way we've been as a unit."

The back, he said, felt "good. I feel good. It's just part of going through it and continuing to get stronger, and you go out and play and you feel good, you play, and keep going."

His mending back, Romo said, wasn't even on his mind.

"When you play and step on the field, if you're thinking about those things, you're doing your team a disservice," he said. "I've got a lot of other things that I have to do to make sure we're running the offense smoothly and efficiently, and that's what needs to be in your brain."

He'll likely have a far more erudite diagnosis Sunday morning, when Romo tries to climb out of bed after his first NFL game in eight months.

But so far, so good, even if it was only 14 plays.

Clearly, it beat the other possibilities.

(c)2014 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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