IRVING, Texas – The toughest part of Tony Romo's return this Sunday won't be trying to do too much on offense.
It'll be retrieving his natural rhythm within the system he has led for nearly a decade.
Approaching his first start in nine weeks, the narrative all week has been whether Romo might be overly aggressive against the Dolphins in an attempt to dig the Cowboys out of their seven-game losing streak. Romo says he simply must operate the offense as usual, though rust is a real prospect for any quarterback who's been out this long.
"My job is to, hopefully, not have that kind of rust, but it can happen after this kind of layoff," he said. "I've had it before; I've thought about that. I've tried to do certain things to help that. Until you play, though, I mean, it is the National Football League. There are going to be certain things that you have to go through. Hopefully it's only a couple plays instead of longer than that."
One challenge, unlike a long layoff throughout a normal offseason, is there's no training camp or preseason leading into Romo's first game back from the collarbone injury. Although he was eligible to return to practice two weeks ago while on the injured reserve/designated to return list, he hasn't benefited from a long stretch of daily reps to rehearse various situations that can arise throughout a game.
"The tough part will mostly be the feeling of playing," he said. "You're used to having a preseason or training camp after a long layoff. Practice has been very important. I feel like I'm trying to get…there's a lot of situational thinking that goes into it, that I feel like are advantages for some of the top quarterbacks. Those are the things I have to really address, because they come up every day when you are in camp or playing football games. When you're not, they can be overshadowed somewhat by some other things.
"When you come back you have to work on technique, footwork, just some of the normal things. In that, you can sometimes lose some of the situational thinking in the process. You just have to fight that battle. That will be the biggest issue coming back."
Practice reps are important, but this week Romo maintained his usual routine of taking practice off Wednesday to focus on strengthening his core and his surgically-repaired back, which he feels is the strongest it's been since having the procedure at the end of the 2013 season.
"Well, there are multiple reasons on that, but I think just knowing how the process of weeks are, you want it to be as normal as possible," Romo said of his practice schedule.
So, knowing he might have some rust Sunday, how has Romo looked in practice?
"He looks like the guy we remember," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "Looking forward to Sunday."