IRVING, Texas — Tony Romo pointed here and there, showing receiver Dez Bryant the best way to use a block on the first day of offseason practice.
That’s about what he can do for now.
The new $100 million quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys can’t participate in workouts because of a procedure last month to remove a cyst on his back. So he had a chance Tuesday to show a little bit of what owner Jerry Jones made everyone believe would be an expanded role when he said Romo would be putting in “Peyton Manning-type time” to try to make Dallas a Super Bowl contender again.
Romo looked a lot like a coach, even though he’s loathe to acknowledge that his presence is anything more than the natural progression of a quarterback getting ready for his seventh full season as the starter. And he certainly rejects the conclusion drawn by many after Jones’ comments that his dedication has something to do with Dallas missing the playoffs three straight years and him having a 1-6 record in elimination games.
“I’m here. I’m always at the facility,” said Romo, speaking publicly for the first time since signing a six-year, $108 million extension with more guaranteed money ($55 million) than Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco of Baltimore. “If you talk to any of the coaches or anybody I’m around, I’ve been a gym rat since I’ve been here.”
The question of golf always comes up with Romo this time of year, and, well, he hasn’t been playing as much because he’s been recovering from what he said was a minor outpatient procedure for a cyst that was “kind of annoying” but not cancerous. The procedure was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.
The 33-year-old Romo will miss three weeks of practice but could participate in minicamp starting June 11. He will be ready for training camp in July.
“Nobody was real concerned about it,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We felt like it was better to get it taken care of sooner rather than later. He was doing everything in our offseason program. He’s back to doing a lot of that stuff right now as he’s getting better.”
Backup Kyle Orton will take most of the snaps in Romo’s absence. He signed as a free agent last year but played in just one game, a blowout loss to Chicago. The Cowboys also have second-year player Nick Stephens and undrafted rookie Dalton Williams on the roster.
A healthy Romo, now the highest-paid player in franchise history, will be a huge factor for Garrett, who is unlikely to return if Dallas doesn’t make the playoffs in 2013.
The last time Romo missed significant playing time, former coach Wade Phillips was fired and replaced by Garrett in the middle of a 6-10 season in 2010. Romo was out 10 games with a broken collarbone.
Romo played through a broken rib early in the 2011 season and stayed healthy last year. Both seasons ended with losses to NFC East rivals in finales with playoff berths on the line.
“We’ve always been very cautious this time of year with our players, making sure they’re 100 percent healthy and get them back when they’re ready to go,” Garrett said. “There’s going to be plenty of work once he comes back, a lot of training camp work prior to that first game.”
The Cowboys and Romo could have done what the Ravens and Flacco did — play out the final season of a contract and see how it goes. Baltimore had to pay plenty, giving Flacco $120.6 million over six years with $52 million guaranteed.
While the total value of Romo’s deal is lower, he and the Cowboys were heavily criticized for a comparable deal with more guaranteed money despite Flacco having eight more playoff wins, in five straight trips to the postseason.
“We were 8-8 the last couple of years,” Romo said. “That doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think I’m an 8-8 quarterback. I don’t think this organization is comfortable being 8-8. We’re going to do everything we can as coaches, players and in this building to change that.”
Romo’s interpretation of his owner’s line about Peyton Manning is that Denver’s quarterback, a former Super Bowl winner with Indianapolis, has always had an unusually direct relationship with coaches.
It’s not that Romo and Garrett haven’t worked closely the six seasons they’ve been together. But Romo figures it’s natural that he’ll have more to say about the game plan rather than just waiting around Monday and Tuesday for it to show up.
“The older you get, you develop that a little bit as a quarterback,” Romo said. “If you do some good things in the past that allow you to show, then you can have a little more of that. That’s part of the growth that takes shape.”
He was showing some of that during his idle time on the practice field.