IRVING, Texas – By the midway point of Tuesday's opening OTA, Tony Romo had donned his familiar baseball cap in favor of a football helmet.
It's bound to register as news when the franchise quarterback pulls out of practice, but it was expected in this case. Romo said his opening day of work was exactly in line with the Cowboys' gameplan for his recovery from back surgery.
"You start off with a certain number of throws you're going to do, a certain number of reps, and then you take it a little bit more and a little bit more and you make sure your body keeps getting comfortable," he said.
Romo said last week that he probably wasn't yet 100 percent recovered from the surgery that ended his season last December. That reflected in his output to start offseason practices, as he participated in walkthroughs and individual drills before resting for the more intense, full-team portion of practice.
"We wanted to keep him out of the competitive stuff against the defense, that was full speed, like we're doing with a number of the other players who are coming off injuries," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "I thought he had a good day from what I could tell."
That's still a starting point compared to last spring, when a separate back surgery kept Romo from working with the team until training camp. This year, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Romo was able to throw as early as a few weeks ago, in onfield teaching sessions with coaches, as well as the first day of OTAs.
"In the teaching sessions, he did a little bit more throwing, but it was throwing the routes – it was basically just individual work. We didn't do any team work at all, so it's basically what he's been doing," Wilson said after the opening practice. "He didn't do anything last year – he didn't throw in one teaching session or one OTA. So he's definitely ahead of last year."
The fact that Romo is throwing regularly – he said he is able to throw at full velocity, but opts not to on every rep – has to be a welcome sight for the Cowboys. There has been plenty of speculation during the offseason that the herniated disc he dealt with in 2013 could be more serious than initially indicated. Romo made headlines last week when he told 105.3 The Fan he thought he could play for five more years, and he provided his reasoning Tuesday.
"You look at a couple of factors: One, you see the number of people that have already done it in a lot of different sports," he said. "You look at it and see your level of improvement through the rehab and on top of it, you just understand that it's like anything. You concentrate in your workouts and the time that you have to go prove yourself, you can really change just about [embedded_ad]
anything. The human body is an amazing thing – it gives you a great opportunity to get better. I think I'll be able to play for quite a bit longer."
While he works his way back, however, he ceded plenty of reps to new addition Brandon Weeden. The former Browns starter has taken over the backup role during Kyle Orton's absence from workouts, and Romo's limited availability left him with plenty of first-team work Tuesday.
Wilson said he's been impressed with Weeden during the team's offseason work, as he said his experience should benefit the Cowboys while they wait for Romo and Orton. "He's throwing the ball real well, has a great presence about him. He's real smart," Wilson said. "He's not bright-eyed about anything, so he can handle all that stuff."