ADDISON, Texas – Throughout his Cowboys career, Tony Romo's extracurricular offseason activities typically have involved – you'll be shocked here – something competitive, whether it's a little golf, basketball or soccer for exercise when he's away from Valley Ranch.
"I tell my wife sometimes, 'As long as I'm able to compete on a daily basis with something, I sleep well at night.' I thrive on that," Romo said Thursday night at Fashion's First Down, a charity fashion show featuring the Dallas Cowboys Women's Association and chaired by his wife Candice. "I think that's partly why I've been able to grow and continue to get better as a player."
Now 35 with a surgically-repaired back, Romo has scaled back those hobbies. But he's also having his best Cowboys offseason in three years because, well, it's the first traditional offseason he's been able to have in three years.
Basically limited only to mental reps following consecutive back procedures in 2013 and 2014, Romo has participated in all six organized team activities (OTAs) over the last two weeks. His on-field presence in the spring is a great benefit to the offense and to him, even though he's the definition of a football veteran – July will mark his 13th training camp with the Cowboys.
Besides directing the offense, Romo's also been able to increase his workout regimen where previously his main focus was rehabbing his back and trying to strengthen the areas around it. He's regaining power in areas that he previously didn't have or only had for short periods of time – a credit, he says, to the workout plan he's developed with the athletic training staff and the strength and conditioning staff.
"We've had a great process of figuring out how to continue to get stronger in the offseason, which I haven't been able to do in the last few years," Romo said. "That's been as exciting as anything just to be able to get back into building that and the football stuff is just showing that on the other end. So that's been really good."
By NFL rules, the OTAs and upcoming minicamp are non-contact sessions in helmets, jerseys and shorts. In training camp, when the pads come on and the practice schedule expands, Romo says he and the staff will outline a routine that keeps him on an upward trajectory building toward the Sept. 13 opener against the Giants. The work he's done to this point has been exciting for him.
"I like to work, I like to grind, I like to push the envelope in a lot of ways. I haven't been able to do that in years past," he said. "This year, I've been able to kind of see. You know, I'm trying to figure out the baseline for this. We'll figure that out along the way and we're figure out what the best course of action is as we get into camp and it gets a little more ramped up with pads and things."
Even with his practice time restricted in camp and the regular season, Romo finished third in the 2014 NFL MVP voting with 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 69.9 completion percentage as the Cowboys won the NFC East at 12-4.
Feeling healthier than he's been in years, the appetite to compete is still there.
"I've made it a competition to be at my best with my back, with my training," Romo said. "And I think that's allowed me to consistently get stronger each day, each week, each month since the surgery last year."