FRISCO - Tony Romo isn't back on the field yet. But he was back on the stage at The Star in Frisco on Tuesday as his preparation for a 2016 debut -- this Sunday as the No. 2 quarterback behind surprisingly successful heir Dak Prescott -- accelerates.
And he made his appearance with a great deal of sincerity and a measure of sadness.
"To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement,'' said Romo as he read from a prepared statement is his first on-the-record/at-large comments to the media all regular season. "Getting hurt when you feel you have the best team you’ve ever had was soul-crushing to me. ... You almost feel like an outsider. It's a dark place... It's in this moment when you find out what you're really about.''
And what is Romo about? He expressed full support for his successor, calling football a "meritocracy.''
"A great example of this is Dak Prescott, and what he’s done,'' Romo said. "He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record, and that’s hard to do.''
In recent weeks, Romo has inched up to partial participation in practice and then last week was listed as a full participant in practice for the first time this season as he continued to rehab from a compression fracture in his back suffered Aug. 25 in a preseason game at Seattle.
Mark Sanchez has been the No. 2 guy to this point behind Prescott, the fourth-round rookie who has been so stellar during Dallas' best-in-the-NFL 8-1 start that the Cowboys will have a decision to make this offseason about their future at the position. (We believe Dak and teammate Ezekiel Elliott deserve to be midseason MVP candidates, as we write here.) A springtime goodbye to Romo would save Dallas $30 million in cap room and would put in his spot a youngster in Prescott making only about $600,000 a year. Such moves are how a team can "beat the cap.'' (Details of a "cap-hell''- avoiding Romo divorce are here.)
Dallas isn't ready for that decision yet -- not emotionally, for certain -- and doesn't need to be. Romo, a 14-year veteran who is the franchise record-holder in so many departments but is the leader of teams that haven't sniffed Super Bowls, isn't ready to ponder a future away from football, or from Dallas, yet, either.
Here's Fish Facebook Live post from The Star:
Romo talked of him feeling more competitive that ever, in part because of how the injury has stolen from him a chance. (The full Romo transcript -- which Fish is reporting the QB wrote himself -- is here.)
As far as owner Jerry Jones (a dreamy-eyed admirer of Romo's) is concerned, the QB still has everything it takes to be great. He told 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday that Romo is just as capable of last week's foe, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, of putting up 400-yard games. Jones also envisions a bright future for Romo, 36, once his playing career is over.
"Tony has the ability to be a great offensive coordinator,'' Jones said. "He has an eye and has an understanding about offensive football that's exceptional. ... Two years ago, I sat down with him and said, 'I really want you in the process as we really get into picking a quarterback for the future because I don't want you to leave your career without having the benefit of you helping us get this quarterback and getting him ready to go.'
And of course, his eyes just lit up, and he said, I'm your man."
But that is "then.'' This is "now.'' As our man Fish notes, "This was a concession speech for the moment, not a retirement speech forever.'' Down deep, right now, Tony Romo still wants to "your man'' in an on-the-field football sense. But he recognizes that Dak is "the man'' right now.
"Something magical's happening to our team,'' Romo said, vowing to continue to help Prescott succeed. "I’m not going to let something negative happen by being a distraction.''