IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will continue to ease Tony Romo back into their offseason program, as has been the case since the team reported for voluntary workouts six weeks ago.
To hear it from Romo, though, he would be able to suit up if the Cowboys had a game on Sunday. The surgery he underwent on a herniated disc in his back on Dec. 27 is roughly 23 weeks behind him, and Romo said the slow portion of his rehab is as well.
"I don't think it's slow anymore. I think earlier on, right after surgery, you kind of go through that mode of getting healthy – kind of having to not do too much right away," he said. "But now I'm to a point where you can push it and kind of go, and I feel like at this point I could play in a game if I had to."
That's not to say the Cowboys would want him to. Romo hasn't even been the primary quarterback during the full-team periods of offseason practices, ceding that duty to Brandon Weeden. He might be capable of playing, but Romo added that there's still some recovery time left in the process.
"Obviously you wouldn't want to right yet, just to let it completely scar up and heal in all the areas that you want," he said. "But in the next couple weeks I think I'll be 100 percent."
Fortunately for the Cowboys and their quarterback, the looming opener against NFC power San Francisco is still several months away. Without the worry of preparing for live action, Romo said he's able to focus on another goal. With just a few more practices until the Cowboys break until training camp, Romo said he doesn't foresee any hiccups that will limit him when the team begins work on July 24 in Oxnard, California.
"Your ultimate goal is to be 100 percent on Day 1 of training camp so you don't miss any time. That's what, starting this process, you were thinking," he said. "Now I feel good enough that I'm taking reps and doing things out there, but at the same token you want to be smart and not do anything to set it back, per se. But I don't envision anything like that happening at this point."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said last week that the team would keep Romo on his regular regimen, which is light throwing during warmups and individual drills before sitting out of team work. Romo said it's hard as a competitor to let go of those reps. More importantly, though, he said his body is responding well to the process and he is past the painful portion of recovery.
"I don't know that it's like that anymore -- now you're almost complete healthy," he said, when asked about aches and pains. "It's more that, if you really pushed it and did a whole lot, you'd feel like 'Ok, I did a lot of work today.' That's really where it's at at this point."
That's nothing new for a tenured veteran with plenty of bumps and bruises for the cause – of course, it's putting it a bit mildly to classify herniated discs, fractured ribs and punctured lungs as "bumps and bruises." Romo described the laundry list of injuries as joys of playing professionally.
"You basically give up your body, in some ways, to play the game. It's a great joy to be able to play this game for a living," he said. "When you're done, and I'm done with the Cowboys, like I've said before, I'll have given my back and some ribs through that time. But it's been a great joy."
All that experience is bound to pay dividends when Romo does finally return to live action, against both his own team and others. With eight years of starting experience under his belt, he said he's not concerned about the first shot he'll take – whether it's against the 49ers or another opponent.
"I've been through it. I don't think it's going to really be too much. You go through injuries, you get hit," he said. "The body is an incredible thing. It has a way of correcting itself, getting better and improving, and almost just healing itself. To me, you just trust it and go play."
That level of trust certainly seems high as Romo prepares to return full-time. Last month, in an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the 34-year-old said he didn't just plan on playing a full, 16-game season in 2014, but that he planned to play five more years.
On Monday, in talking about his long journey through the NFL, Romo tacked an extra year onto that prognostication – not to mention an overarching hope for where those six years lead him and the Cowboys.
"You just kind of keep getting better – keep improving," he said. "You're going to go through ups and downs, but hopefully we finish off my career, six years from now, and you're done and you're holding that Super Bowl trophy and you look back and say 'That was exactly what I wanted it to be.'"