SEATTLE — Despite playing in only three snaps of Thursday’s 27-17 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo came away encouraged that his surgically repaired back is stronger than ever.
Romo immediately reached for his lower back after getting sacked from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril, who jammed Romo’s back into the turf in the first quarter.
“Whenever you take a hit, that was a perfect timed situation,” Romo said. “I was going into a slide. But in a weird way, I feel good about the fact that was probably as tough of a hit I’ve taken on the back as I’ve had in the last five years. From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and I can keep going.”
Romo was held out of the rest of the game by coach Jason Garrett after lobbying to return. Romo did not have any X-rays, but he spent the second half of the game in the locker room.
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“Initially I think he was in a little bit of shock,” Garrett said. “He didn’t feel real good. But once a little time went by, I think he was feeling better, better and better. We don’t think there is anything serious.”
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones was able to joke that he was spending the night in a Seattle hospital to have his heart tested after seeing his quarterback go down. Romo had his back operated on twice in 2013, and he missed one game in 2014 with two transverse process fractures. Last season, he missed 12 games with a twice-broken left collarbone that required offseason surgery.
The Cowboys are 15-4 with Romo as the starter the past two seasons and 1-12 without him.
Jones said the back soreness would not limit Romo’s ability to be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.
“I just think, we, everyone had a scare,” Jones said. “He was not hurt and he said he wasn’t hurt. He wanted to go back in. He could have gone back in and played.
“But I praise Jason. It was his decision. After that, you couldn’t afford for him to get hurt. You would’ve lost everybody had he walked back out there and gotten hurt, whether it was as a result of the first one or not. That was the smart thing to do for the team, for everybody involved here, is to call it a night for him. Certainly nothing at stake there.”
Tony Romo had two back surgeries in 2013. He had a cyst removed in the offseason that year and missed the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles after undergoing a discectomy. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
Romo has played only 16 snaps in the preseason. The Cowboys close the preseason Sept. 1 against the Houston Texans, but Romo has not played in a preseason finale since 2006. In two preseason games this summer, Romo has completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards.
“At the moment when you go down, you crunch so your back gets squished, I guess you could say,” Romo said in describing the feeling of the hit. “You almost feel a sensation as if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder. It just feels hot for a second. That dissipates after a minute and you’re OK. All of those things you felt before with back injuries, those are all fine. Then you’re strength comes back and you’re like OK. It just takes a little bit.”
Garrett was non-committal as to whether Romo would play against the Texans. Jones said he has liked what Romo has done in the limited work.
“He’s looked really good and of course the real way to evaluate how he looks is out at practice and how he’s moving around,” Jones said.
Since 2013, Romo’s preseason snaps have diminished each year. He played 69 snaps in three games in 2013, 50 in two games in 2014 and 24 in two games in 2015.
“I felt great for camp. I felt great going into the game last week, same this week,” Romo said. “I feel very comfortable whether I’m done playing or whatever. It’s coach’s call. I just know my job is to get ready to play in the game, and I feel very good about our football team and our offense going forward. I think you guys can see that we have a chance to be a good unit.”