Dak, Cowboys Elect To Focus On Baltimore, Rather Than QB Speculation

FRISCO, Texas – The shockwaves of Tony Romo's statement could be felt everywhere on Wednesday, as fans and media reacted to the news that Romo is no longer the Cowboys' starting quarterback.

Those looking for shock or surprise in the Cowboys' locker room weren't going to find it, however. In fact, across the organization – from the head coach to Romo's successor, Dak Prescott – it very much felt like business as usual.

"I think that was more for y'all than for me or for this team," Prescott said. "We know each other how we feel about the situation. He's been a great leader, a great model for me to look up to and watch every day, so I'm not surprised."

Romo delivered a heartfelt speech Tuesday evening, detailing his own emotions during an injury-plagued season and acknowledging that Prescott had earned the team's starting job on the strength of an 8-1 start.

But while it felt like a passing of the torch to the outside perspective, Prescott said it was simply a continuation of what Romo's teammates have known for a while now. Having worked with him closely over the past six months, Prescott said it simply affirmed what he'd learned from the veteran since being drafted.

"It's an emotional statement for him to come out and say that, but I'm not surprised," he said. "I know how much he cares about this game, I know what it means to him, how much he puts into it every day and what this team means to him."

If Romo's intention was to quiet the speculation about the starting quarterback position, it didn't work – at least not yet. Considering the 36-year-old has been the franchise's top quarterback, when healthy, for the last decade, the questions were bound to follow.

It wasn't just Prescott fielding them, but anyone associated – be it player or coach. Ever determined to keep the focus on the present, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was sure to steer Wednesday's conversation toward Romo's role this week, rather than any speculation about an unknown future.

"He and I had a really good visit today about the focus that he needs to have today in preparing for what his role is going to be on Sunday if all goes well this week," Garrett said. "I thought he handled himself well but again his focus and our focus is on today and our preparation for Baltimore."

To that end, Romo did practice Wednesday, and Garrett said the Cowboy would adjust their routine a bit to accommodate him getting more work as the backup. But, just one day after Romo's emotional words, only the players appeared to be interest in facing forward.

"I don't understand why we're even having this conversation right now," said Jason Witten. "You really can't say it better than what he said yesterday."

Dez Bryant agreed with that assessment, adding that it wasn't his place to add to a sentiment that Romo expressed so eloquently himself. Bryant did say, though, that it didn't do anything to change the opinion he had of the quarterback.

"It don't, it don't. It changed y'all's feelings about who he is," he said. "Right now, to us, he's just like every other guy in this locker room. We respect him just like we respect Witt. It's no different."

That type of attitude can only help the Cowboys, as Witten also said he's hopeful Romo's statement will quell the speculation that has surrounded the team since early October.

"The best thing this team has done is eliminated the distractions, and that's for everybody," Witten said. "We've got to continue to do that, and I thought Tony certainly took the lead in how he approached it."  

Bryant and Witten ultimately won't face the same scrutiny as Prescott. Despite the eight-game win streak, the rookie quarterback has been seen as a placeholder for the majority of the season. The reason Romo gave a statement in the first place was to settle the speculation about whether Prescott has been good enough to keep the job.

Clearly, he has been. And with that acknowledgement comes a need to know more. What will the second half of the season hold? What's in store for Romo, and will Prescott feel his presence behind him?

True to the Cowboys' mantra, Prescott said he's much more concerned with the job at hand: the next film session, the next practice, the next game.

"I'm head down, always focusing. Tony is a great quarterback, and everybody knows this whole situation within this locker room," he said. "That's how we worry about it and we keep it within this locker room. We just go in and everybody plays their role."

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