ARLINGTON, Texas – Troy Aikman doesn't know specifically where Tony Romo's at with his recovery, but he does know a thing or two about returning from a back injury to play quarterback in the NFL.
Aikman had back surgery early in his career and experienced back issues prior to his retirement, and he said the back surgeries Romo's experienced are nothing to take lightly.
"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said while at a United Way celebration announcement Wednesday at AT&T Stadium. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.
"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back – everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."
Aikman was 26 years old when he underwent back surgery early in his career. He enjoyed an illustrious 12-year stint with the Cowboys from 1989-2000, but he's admitted before that the back problems late in his career played a significant part in his retirement.
Romo, meanwhile, is coming off two back surgeries in a one-year span and is entering his 12th year in the league at age 33. Aikman said he saw Romo over the weekend, but he hasn't seen him run or work out and he doesn't know how the Dallas quarterback's recovery's going.
Despite the injury concerns, Aikman doesn't believe the Cowboys will be grabbing a quarterback in this year's draft.
"Didn't sound like it," Aikman said. "I think Brandon Weeden obviously has some talent, and Kyle Orton, I'm assuming he's back. I've always been a big Kyle Orton fan. I think he's fully capable, and I think he proved that in the last game of the season. It doesn't sound like they'll be drafting anybody. But if they can find a free agent to come out and at some point down the road play like Tony has played, that's a pretty good way to go."
Romo will be dealing with a third different play-caller in three seasons when he returns to the field with Scott Linehan this season.
Aikman said it's important the quarterback and play-caller have chemistry, but the importance of that switch depends more on the talent of the play-caller.
"A lot of times I'm asked, especially with young quarterbacks, not so much someone the age of Tony, about changing the offensive play-caller and how that may hurt a young quarterback," Aikman said, "and I always say it depends on who the coordinator is and whether or not he's any good."
So what does Aikman think of the Linehan addition?
"I think Scott Linehan certainly has a track record," Aikman said. "He's been good at virtually every stop. I like his philosophy. He has a working relationship, a past working relationship, with Jason. I think it's going to be a good fit. I really do. They'll be an attacking offense. It's a vertical passing attack. They like to get the ball down the field. We saw it when he was at Minnesota. We've seen it in recent years with Detroit, and Dallas has the personnel to do that here." [embedded_ad]
Despite his former position, it's not a surprise to hear where Aikman believes the Cowboys' focus should be in this year's draft.
Aikman agrees with the majority that the Cowboys, who finished last in the league in total defense last year, should focus on the defensive side of the ball.
"I think you look at the Cowboys right now and some of the struggles specifically from last year, defense clearly was an area of concern and disappointment," Aikman said. "A lot of that was because of the injuries, so I'm sure there will be a focus on that. I don't get too caught up in these teams right now and what their needs are. I'm not involved in the draft. Maybe one day I will be, but in my current role as a broadcaster, I'm not."
Aikman didn't break down every top quarterback prospect, but he did add his two cents on the most polarizing player of the incoming group.
The former Cowboys great likes Johnny Manziel and believes in the former Texas A&M quarterback at the next level. "I'm a fan of his, and I'm really pulling for him," Aikman said. "I had a chance to meet him at the Final Four, and I saw some of his workout from television. I wasn't in Houston for the workout, but I think he's got an opportunity to really have a special career, and I'll be pulling for that to happen."