Football / Sports

Ready or not, the Cowboys host 49ers on Sept. 7

The media finally had a Tony Romo sighting Monday when the Dallas Cowboys quarterback walked through the locker room carrying a plate of food during the open access period. He missed practice as the Cowboys continue to take a cautious approach with his surgically repaired back.

Romo has sat out seven practices since the team began training camp July 24, and he played only 48 snaps in the preseason. He will not play in Thursday's preseason finale against Denver.

Is he ready?

"I thought it was good work for him," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We got an opportunity to see him in a lot of different situations all over the field, some two-minute-type situations, some red zone opportunities. I thought he had good command, I thought there were a lot of good things. He, like everybody else, has a lot of things to work on. There's no question about that. But I think there was a comfort level playing. There's no question in my mind."

The starting offensive line took three penalties and gave up three sacks in the 25-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. It forced Romo into the cold tub for the first time immediately after a game.

Are they ready?

"I think we're in a good spot for where we are right now," center Travis Frederick said. "That being said, we have a couple more practices before the regular season starts. We definitely have things to improve on, but we have time to do that. We continue to work hard at practice and work on those little things."

The defensive line has yet to play together. Defensive tackles Terrell McClain (high ankle) and Henry Melton (groin) haven't played in the preseason. Defensive end George Selvie injured his shoulder Saturday night. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, the second-round pick, will miss three to six games after having surgery on his right foot.

The Cowboys hope for the eventual returns of defensive end Anthony Spencer, who had microfracture surgery on his knee last season, and defensive tackle Josh Brent, who continues to await word from the league office on his reinstatement. The return of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, cleared medically after a rare autoimmune syndrome called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, would be a bonus.

Are they ready?

"I think it's going to be rough at the start, but once we start getting a couple of reps together, it's going to start like riding a bicycle," McClain said. "We'll be all right."

The cornerbacks haven't worked together much either. Orlando Scandrick, the one constant, will miss the first four games while serving a league-mandated suspension. Brandon Carr saw his first preseason action against the Dolphins after missing most of training camp to be with his dying mother. Morris Claiborne missed the first three preseason games with knee and then shoulder injuries, though he practiced Monday. Sterling Moore missed time with a groin injury, though he played Saturday night.

Are they ready?

"I feel like I'm ready," said Claiborne, who has missed 10 of 12 preseason games in his three seasons. "Even if I didn't take a snap in the preseason, I feel like I'd be ready for the regular season."

The truth is: Ready or not, the San Francisco 49ers are here Sept. 7. That is six practices away.

"Everybody needs the work," Garrett said. "We talked about that after the game: If at any point you think like, 'OK, we're ready,' we're not ready. We're never going to be ready. You're always trying to get more ready. That's the approach we take. We're always striving to improve as individual players and coaches and certainly as a team.

"Having said that, now you have to decide who is playing in the game. There are a lot of ways to get yourself better and to improve prior to that first regular-season game. We are going to take every chance to do that, in some cases using that game and in other cases not. But we are trying to get better every day."

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