OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys held their first padded practice of the 2016 training camp at River Ridge playing fields. It was also the first time quarterback Tony Romo had addressed the media since late May. Even though the 36-year-old qurarterback was held out of Sunday's walkthrough and practice, the four-time Pro Bowler assured he was feeling fit to play.
"Yeah, it’s the best off-season I’ve had in a long time," Romo said.
No kidding. Since 2013, Romo has had an issue of some kind heading into the season. From 2013-14, each off-season had the dark cloud of a back surgery. While the 2015 off-season had no lingering procedures, the club held him out of workouts. The season was also marred by a twice-broken left clavicle, which Romo had an operation on during the off-season. Still, the seasoned signal caller claims it has been an outstanding off-season.
Said Romo: "Just to be able to do all of the stuff you’re not always able to do. Obviously, camp is a lot more days in a row. We had three days in a row during the off-season when we had OTAs and so this first part was four, we thought we’d get a day in and then go from there each week and reassess it. You know, it’s been holding up. Everything has been going good. We just got to keep getting stronger and keep getting better."
Along with being "fat," Romo has also brought consternation to Cowboys Nation with his day off on Sunday, just the second full day of training camp. Romo explained, as head coach Jason Garrett had on that day's press conference, that it was all part of an overarching plan of having Romo practice two days and then take a day off.
"Yeah, that’s what we talked about," said Romo. "Just the ability to…You know, we’ve done it before. It’s not as if we’ve changed the routine completely in any capacity. I’ve probably had the same kind of routine I’ve had before just because we know that works. Now, as I continue to feel better you’ll sprinkle in a day longer here and then. I think you’ve just got to come in and get great work in and continue to get better."
Of course, this routine is also a sneaky way for the coaching staff to get more reps to their backup and developmental quarterbacks. Giving Kellen Moore reps with the first-team group gives the Boise State legend and the coaching staff confidence that he can fill in should Romo go down. Because Moore gets reps with the first-team, his second-team snaps can be divvied out to Jameill Showers and Dak Prescott, two green field generals who can use every bit of practice available.
The only problem with the overarching plan is it could affect Romo and Dez Bryant's ability to get on the same page. Though Romo was available for all off-season workouts, Bryant was held out as a precaution though sources close to the receiver stated he was 100 percent and could have practiced. The quarterback-receiver duo compensated for this by getting in work together throughout July.
"We got time," Romo said. "He came in in good shape. Obviously the running part of it. He has been running and doing good things that help him come out and be a lot better starting off here than if you don't work. He works hard. He just needs to get the normal rust off for a week. You are seeing some signs of him coming out pretty quickly. Like anybody it takes a few days."
Bryant confirmed the timing between he and Romo are only getting better with each practice together.
"We’re doing good," said Bryant. "It’s the first day of pads, actual real football. We’re doing better and each day all we’re going to do is get better. When it’s time to go, we’ll be ready to go. We don’t need much time, but there’s nothing wrong with working on techniques and get in that mode that we know we can be in."
Are you sure about that, Dez? Are you sure you don't need more time to renew the chemistry between you and your quarterback?
"Ah man, it never left. It’s just knocking of [rust]. It’s the first day of practice."
Being out at practice in full pads was invigorating for Bryant, whose season was trimmed down to nine injury-riddled contests bereft of 100-yard games, dazzling catches, and X's being thrown up.
"My season ended a little bit earlier than the rest of the team because of my injury," Bryant said. "Other than that, I’m excited to be out here. I’m happy. I’m back in football mode. I’m excited. I feel good about our squad."
BACK TO YOU, TYRONE
In today's presser, Garrett stated defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford would miss "a few days" with a back issue that was deemed as nothing serious after an MRI on Sunday. The fifth-year pro will be "day to day."
Said Garrett: "He has a back injury he’s been dealing with a little bit so we’ll take his situation day by day. He will not practice him practice today but we anticipate the rest of the group to be practicing except the rest of the group that we know will be out."
Garrett indicated this is an issue with Crawford that has popped up at another point in his career and is nothing too serious. Our Star Insider, Fish, caught up with the defensive tackle and got the scoop. According to Crawford, the problem is indeed "short term" and he is "good." But I guess your friends who don't read CowboysHQ or listen to 105.3 The Fan won't know that until the newspaper picks up on it.
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Jaylon Smith goes one-on-one with Fish here to detail his "Earned Dreams'' in Cowboys Premium ... Mo Claiborne was the defensive standout of the day. And we give the same award to Tyron Smith on offense ... Ezekiel Elliott was the backfield workhorse, not being given much room to run but looking flashy when he did in a pair of light blue shoes.
THE FINAL WORD