A week ago, Tony Romo talked to the media-at-large in Seattle about having "dodged a bullet'' in that preseason loss, about having been "crunched'' and "squashed'' but surviving ... yet as it turns out, not "surviving'' well enough to avoid a fractured bone in his back.
Once the mob dispersed, I joked with Romo about making sure to find a roomy, comfy seat on the Dallas Cowboys flight home.
"Oh, I'll make sure they put me up in front,'' he kidded.
But nobody is laughing now. The Cowboys have a sort of solidity in Dak Prescott; at least they know he's on the team, they know he's starting the Sept. 11 season-opener against the Giants, and they know he's well ahead of where they once projected him to be. But beyond Dak?
They have, most of all, a decision. The Romo recovery timetable cannot be written in black-and-white, and indeed, the two media people I most trust on this matter (Bryan Broaddus and, well, myself) are reporting logic at both ends of a realistic spectrum: Broaddus has a source saying Romo could be healed from six weeks from the time of the injury; I have a source close to the situation who says the QB and the Joneses have been informed to "prepare for 10'' missed weeks.
Hope for six, prepare for 10. I bet both of our sources on right on the money.
Thus the debate as Dallas weighs the odds of placing Romo on the short-term injured reserve list, which would require him to sit out the first eight weeks of the season. That process starts with Romo being placed on the initial 53-man roster that must be finalized by Saturday. That's the easy part. The rest of it?
“It’s a difficult one,” COO Stephen Jones said. “We’re going to wait right down to the last minute and still gather information and ... (we'll) ultimately decide to make that decision in terms of what we need to do with Tony.''
There are other roster decisions to be made by all 32 teams, of course, and other roster decisions to be made in Dallas. Even the QB room here is in flux, because beyond Romo and Prescott, there is Jameill Showers (who did not dazzle while playing the entire preseason loss to the Texans on Thursday) and there is Jerrod Johnson, signed as a 48-hour Band-Aid, and there is flirtation with Austin Davis, who wants to be paid, I think, like something more than a Band-Aid, and there are guys like KC's Aaron Murray, who might get cut and then get claimed by the Cowboys. And I suppose there is a trade that can materialize, because while the Dallas scouting department likes two-year vet backup Murray, the coaching staff might prefer a vet who has actually, you know, played.
“We’ll evaluate everything,” Jones said. “Don’t want to commit one way or another. We’ll see where we end up. We want to make the best decision possible for the team.”
But the Romo decision dwarfs them all. Keep him on the active roster, just in case? Sensible to me, though somebody might argue you will be wasting a roster spot if your doctors are telling you he's two months away from playing. Shove him over to eight-week IR? Fine, if that's the doctors' recommendation ... but man, you are going to have an entire omelet on your face if somehow Romo is healthy in just a few weeks but you've already locked him into street clothes.
Get this decision right -- and get lucky on Romo's health -- and the Dallas Cowboys can maybe, just maybe, in the end, contend for the NFC East title, as was the plan all along. Get this decision wrong and nobody is joking and nobody is comfortable.
UPDATE: And here we are ... Dak is the starter, Mark Sanchez replaces Showers as the caddie, and Romo is staying on the 53, all as of Sunday. The Cowboys can gather more intel on Romo's back and make a Monday change, but they cling to optimism here.
What happens in the next six weeks and beyond is why the Tony Romo IR decision is the biggest roster move in the entire NFL.