IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo's second collarbone injury of the season has prompted no shortage of discussion about his future – not to mention the future of the Cowboys' quarterback position.
Romo just injured his clavicle for the third time in his career, and he will turn 36 before the start of the 2016 season. The discussion about his future is understandable, but it's not something Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wanted to hear.
"We think Tony has a lot of football left in him," Garrett said. "Unfortunate for him, the collarbone was broken a couple of times this year. We do think that's an injury that will heal."
The broken clavicle from the Thanksgiving loss to Carolina will end Romo's season, as Garrett anticipates sending him to injured reserve later this week. Combined with his previous collarbone injury, which knocked him out for eight weeks, he only appeared in four games this year.
"Tony wants to play as much as anybody, wants to play at a high level and help our team, and when that gets taken away from you early on in the season, you have to watch, that's challenging," Garrett said. "And then you get a chance to come back and then it happens again, those are not easy."
It's logical why another setback would prompt questions about Romo's long-term health. Romo missed the 2013 season finale with a herniated disc and his back, and he missed time last fall with a broken transverse process. To summarize, it's been three years since Romo played all 16 games in a season.
All of that said, Garrett expressed confidence Monday that Romo can bounce back well from all of those problems. He's had more than a year to work his way back from the back injuries, and the collarbone isn't expected to require surgery.
"We do think the back injury has gotten better and better over time. He's more able to handle the work day to day and the work week to week. I think that's improved," he said. "We do think the collarbone will heal and he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
If there's any kind of silver lining to the situation, it's that this latest injury won't require any surgery. Garrett said Monday afternoon that Romo should only require roughly eight weeks to recover, which won't limit his offseason.
"We don't anticipate this being a long-term thing at all," he said. "It's the nature of quarterbacks, sometimes when they get tackled they get tackled here and their bodyweight and the bodyweight of the defender lands on them. It's happened to him. I don't think it's necessarily a weakness that he had."
That'll be a story for the offseason. But for the time being, Garrett said he expects to see Romo just as active around the team as he was during his first injury – coaching and participating in helping the Cowboys try to dig out of their 3-8 hole.
"Absolutely. Tony's a great leader for our team. He's a great teammate," he said. "One of the things I thought he did a really good job of when Brandon was playing and when Matt was playing earlier in the year was just staying involved and staying engaged."
As much as Garrett might be required to stay focused on the present, though, it was telling to hear him project optimism for Romo's long-term future. He might not be able to help the Cowboys out of their current situation, but Romo's latest injury shouldn't hold him out for long.
"We think he's going to come back and be as strong as he's ever been and he's going to be able to play without any issues," Garrett said.