SEATTLE– For all the concern about his ailing back, Tony Romo could only laugh softly to himself in the Cowboys' locker room.
After all, as he phrased it himself, he dodged a bullet on Thursday night against the Seahawks. He left the game after just three plays when he twisted his back while being tackled from behind, and – unlike several other occasions in his career – he walked away.
"In a weird way I feel good about the fact that – that was probably as tough a hit I took on the back as I have in the last five years," Romo said. "From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and you can keep going."
Romo described the play as a "perfect storm" of undesirable circumstances. He stepped up in the pocket to avoid a furious Seahawks pass rush, only to be pulled down from behind by Cliff Avril – who also landed on top of him.
"At the moment when you go down – you crunch. And so your back gets squished," he said. "You kind of feel the, almost like a sensation of if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder or something – where it just feels hot for a second and then that just dissipates after a minute."
The world seemed to stop as the Cowboys' medical staff tended to Romo on the turf of CenturyLink Field. As team owner/general manager Jerry Jones himself pointed out, it wasn't hard to think back to just las year, when Romo broke his collarbone in Week 2 and was absent for most of the season while the Cowboys slunk to a 4-12 record.
"It was like last year – and of course you don't need much for a reminder of how that turned out," Jones said. "I'm just pleased that we're sitting here, candidly, joking about it."
Following a tense few moments, Romo walked to the sideline, where he remained until halftime before disappearing to the dressing room. The veteran signal-caller said he tried to return to the action, but the decision to shut him down for the night was a coaching decision.
"Yeah, I lobbied," Romo said. "But they understand that we have a long season and it's all in front of us."
[embeddedad0]That might be the case, but Thursday provided a sobering reminder of how quickly things can change. Jones joked that he was checking himself into the hospital because of what the injury scare did to his heart – and he surely isn't the only one who felt that way.
As for Romo himself, he – not surprisingly – didn't share the same concerns about his durability. In a testament to the rehab work he's done on his back, he said Avril's hit wasn't something he'd have been able to bounce back from several years ago.
"You can't put people in a bubble and bubble wrap them and just see what happens – you've got to play. It's football. You're going to get hit and things happen," he said. "I don't think we'll have another one as far as a hit that is that timed and perfect on the back. That really is just a – full, right down on top of you. That's as extreme as one as you don't want to have. It's a good sign that I came out of it."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Romo was answering questions about his workload going forward – rather than his timetable for recovery. Thanks to his early exit on Thursday, the 36-year-old has played less than two dozen snaps during this preseason.
Starters typically don't play in the final preseason game – not that the Cowboys will be prepared to talk about playing time a week in advance. But Romo said he's prepared for whatever game plan is decided on as the regular season approaches.
"I feel very comfortable, whether I'm done playing or – it's the coaches' call," he said. "I just know my job is to get ready to play in the game. I feel very good about our football team and our offense going forward."
Given the way Romo's night started, that's about as much as the Cowboys could hope for to end it.