Cowboys In London: Practice At The Pitch

LONDON - The benefits of traveling with the Cowboys? Insights into Romo's back, Dez's contract and the team's mindset at it prepares for its first true across-the-pond practice. Come inside the Airbus, inside the hotel and onto the practice pitch with CowboysHQ!

I've said since the first day of training camp, Tony Romo's back will be an issue until it isn't.

It is ... though the QB is trying to fight through the fractures in his back in order to participate in Sunday's game at Wembley against the Jaguars.

Romo participated in the lightest of walkthroughs on Tuesday upon the Cowboys' arrival in London. But at least he participated.

This was after the ears of a Virgin Airlines employee heard the shocking news that "Romo is done.''

How the misunderstanding happened: Romo was checking in (toting his own bags, for what it's worth). Once he passed through the line, the first employee wondered aloud, "How's Romo?''

Answered another worker: "He's done.''

"DONE?!'' replied Employee 1. "ROMO'S DONE?! OH MY GOSH, NO!''

"No, Employee 2 corrected calmly. "I mean Romo's DONE checking in.''

Coach Jason Garrett said in terms of preparing his guys to go, he is aiming for as normal a schedule as possible.

Dallas' offense will be helped substantially if Romo, working through two fractures in his back, can be anything productive as all. This is a "Romo Wednesday'' in London but that only means no full practice for the QB; I'll still be monitoring his participation on other levels, including walkthrough, meetings and weight room.

Dez Bryant got of the plane tired, but happy. And age 26.

"(Today) is my birthday!" Bryant said. "We're gonna have some fun in London!"

What's "fun"? Bryant - on Nov. 4 now 26 and as I've noted on 105.3 The Fan in recent days in connection with his switch in agents, "all grown up" - means working to win Sunday's game here in the UK at Wembley Stadium against the Jaguars.

"Getting back on track is the whole point of this trip," Dez tells me. "We've got to get this thing right. As one of the leaders of this team, it's my job to help us do that."

Bryant is an elite receiver looking to be compensated that way with an extension that will make him a "Cowboy for Life." But that's the job of Jay-Z's team and the powerhouses of CAA. (This week I will have details of how those negotiations will be tied with NFL star receivers AJ Green and Julio Jones.)

More immediately, Dez needs to be elite on the field. He's the first to concede that hasn't happened in two straight Dallas loses as he's managed to catch passes for 30 yards or fewer in both games - a career-low mark.

It will help if his quarterback is Romo rather than Brandon Weeden. But Dez says he has a bond with both players and a responsibility to all of his teammates on the 6-3 Cowboys.

"I've got to be better, and that will help everybody," he says.

I ask him if what he wants for his birthday is to actually give that gift - that gift of help and leadership.

"Exactly," Bryant says. "But the present we all need (in London) is a win."

The Cowboys trudged off their Virgin Airlines "airbus'' at Gatwick Airport with the pilot wishing them "good luck in your forthcoming match'' and moved straight to a walkthough that was mostly a promotional event - a "Play60'' show for the NFL. Romo played soft-toss in the workout and also notable, offensive linemen Doug Free and Ron Leary were also both active. They will try to work today.

Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray looks to have a wrap on his pinkie but shouldn't be impacted by that -- if he works to prevent fumbling with the other nine fingers. Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford has a knee sprain that could cause him to miss the game but he's optimistic as Dallas approaches a full week of practices starting Wednesday. Linebacker Rolando McClain (knee) also exhibited a limp on the plane but the Cowboys don't seem overly concerned.

Henry Melton has assumed a leadership role off the field for the Cowboys, as exhibited by an outing led by him last Thursday and featuring more than a dozen teammates in a suite at a Mavs game. And on the field? Dallas' top free agency from the summer, coming off a serious knee injury and playing on a make-good contract, has notched 3.5 sacks in the last two games and five for the year. "I'm just getting more an more comfortable with what the coaches are asking me to do," Melton tells me of his role not only as a 3-tech guy as planned but also as a pass-rush end. "We know getting to the quarterback is a big key to making this defense go." ... Jerry Jones joked that wife Gene might get bumped from first class on the plane in order to allow Romo comfort. "Gene won,'' Romo joked, and in fact, Gene and Jerry were even transported through Gatwick Airport aboard a sort of "Popemobile'' -- a plexiglass-encased golf cart ...

"They've got to get themselves acclimated and when we wake up on Wednesday we're going to make it feel like a Wednesday,"
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "One difference we'll be traveling to practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (via bus to the Allianz Rugby complex), no different than us traveling to our stadium in bad weather here. So you just have to kind of deal with that stuff and understand that's what this trip is all about and not allow that to be an excuse. "The other team is going through the same kind of thing so we have to deal with what the situation is and be our best regardless."

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