IRVING, Texas – There's a quirky juxtaposition created when considering the Cowboys' future with Tony Romo.
Outside of Valley Ranch, the storyline has been beaten into the ground. Romo just suffered through the most injury-plagued season of his career. He's missed time due to injury in three-straight seasons, and he also just turned 36.
The concerns can't be stated any more clearly.
Within the confines of the team's facility, though, Romo has enjoyed one of his most active springs in recent memory. He has worked through the entire offseason program to date, and he's been a full participant in both OTA practices so far.
"Obviously, I feel as though I'm pretty excited about what I've been doing," Romo said. "It's the most I've down in three or four years, so that's a good sign."
When the Cowboys got done on the field Wednesday afternoon, their Pro Bowl quarterback took to the gym for a quick workout before fulfilling his media obligations.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett himself pointed out that, for all the questions about Romo's health, last year's limited workload seems to have helped him in the long run.
"I do think, ironically enough, he's healthier than he's been. He's been able to go through more of the offseason program, lay the foundation for himself," Garrett said. "I think his back feels better. I think he's come back from the surgery on his collarbone seemingly without any problems. So he's been able to function leading up to the OTAs and I think he's been good the first couple of days."
That does feel like a bit of a forgotten storyline during the gradual buildup of the NFL offseason – Romo's back. He broke his left collarbone twice in 2015, and he's roughly 10 weeks removed from a surgery that will help limit the risk of injury.
Asked about it Wednesday, Romo sounded far less concerned with the troublesome collarbone and far more encouraged by the health of his historically problematic back. Romo had surgery on a herniated disc back at the end of 2013, and he fractured a transverse process midway through the 2014 season.
Frustrating though it may have been, the signal-caller's shortened 2015 season just might prove beneficial for those troublesome injuries, which have limited his practice and playing abilities over the past several seasons.
"The further I get removed from surgery -- and by now it's been quite a while -- I can go long periods of time doing things that I could do before, for very short periods of time, before it gets heavy or it needs a break," Romo said.
Maybe it's that line of thinking that has prompted team owner/general manager Jerry Jones to state – on multiple occasions – that Romo has another four or five years left to play. Whatever the reasoning, though, it's a forecast Romo himself agreed with.
"I think absolutely," he said. "With the way that it's going right now – the running joke in here is that I'm the only one in here that keeps getting younger each year. Hopefully that continues."
That's not entirely true. Romo did just turn 36 last month, and he acknowledged that he's aware he isn't in his mid-20s anymore. But the hope is that the recovery time might help him feel that way. Mobbed by media at his locker, Romo said he felt similarly to offseasons from five or more years ago – before the back problems began.
"The torque you put on it, the jolting of all the stuff, the hits – all that stuff takes a toll over time," he said. "I feel good now about where it's at, and hopefully it continues to be able to do a lot more of the workload than I've been able to do in three or four years."
Keeping that in mind, Garrett said there's no current plan to limit Romo's workload, as has been the case in recent years. Perhaps that will change as the grind of training camp and the regular season begins, but it doesn't sound like the same concern as it once was.
"We'll see how he goes like we would with any of our veteran players over the course of OTAs and how they handle the work," Garrett said. "But I think he's done a nice job in the first couple days and don't really anticipate any of that. If that does surface as we go we'll address it as it comes."
None of this should serve as some sort of bold proclamation for the future. Prior to last September, Romo's collarbone hadn't been an issue since 2010. As is the case with any football player, he's one potential play away from the next problem.
Having said that, it's been a while since the Cowboys' franchise quarterback had a clean bill of health to work with. There's still plenty of work to do before the season arrives, but that work isn't being impeded by any injuries.
That's a storyline Romo should be much happier to hear.
"I'm not there yet. I've still got these months that I've got to just get after it, but it's exciting to be able to actually get after it," Romo said. "If everything keeps going the way it's going, I think it's going to be exciting."