Cowboys' Romo: Productivity with bad back, not pain, will decide playing status against Cards



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IRVING, Texas — If it's a question of tolerating pain, Tony Romo says he will play Sunday against Arizona — and history supports him on that point.

The issue in the 34-year-old Dallas quarterback's mind is whether he can run the offense while dealing with his third back injury in 18 months. He said Wednesday he doesn't know, which goes to owner Jerry Jones' point that it could be a game-time decision against the Cardinals.

Romo said the injury that sidelined him for about a quarter before he returned late in regulation of Monday's 20-17 overtime loss to Washington was "more than a contusion," referring to coach Jason Garrett's description. He wouldn't be more specific about the damage from a direct hit to his surgically repaired back on a third-quarter sack by linebacker Keenan Robinson.

The latest injury isn't related to the herniated disk Romo played through without leaving the game in a come-from-behind win at Washington before surgery five days later last December. And Jones offered that it has nothing to do with the cyst Romo had removed from his back in April 2013, sidelining him the entire offseason last year.

All in all, Romo said he "dodged a bullet."

"Anytime someone's had back surgery you're always a little bit nervous when you get hit in a specific instance like that," Romo said. "The positive is it's completely unrelated to the disk or anything that could be long term, per se. So that part of if, yeah, that's a positive. As far as feeling great, I feel like that's a negative. But I think that will come."

Romo has said the pain he endured last year in Washington was worse than a 2011 game in San Francisco, where he slipped past doctors in the locker room and led a comeback win with cracked ribs and a punctured lung. He even played the next week, beating the Redskins.

"I don't know that I've ever seen anybody who has a tougher will, his mind, and it helps him tremendously with pain threshold," Jones said. "Combination of those two things, he's as tough-minded and physically tough a player as I've ever been around."

And that's why Romo says pain won't have much to do with the decision.

"It will be about your ability to be productive in some fashion," Romo said. "That part of it we will continue to evaluate."

Brandon Weeden led the Cowboys (6-2) to points on both possessions that Romo missed, and he will start against the Cardinals (6-1) if Romo can't play. That would also mean undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan would be activated from the practice squad for the first time.

Weeden's last start was last December for Cleveland, which drafted him in the first round in 2012 and started him immediately before dumping him with a 5-15 career record after two seasons. He signed with the Cowboys in the offseason.

"I'm going to treat it no different," said Weeden, who's had more quality practice time than most backups because of the way the Cowboys have managed Romo's workouts. "If he's able to go, that's the best thing. We'll see how everything plays out."

Garrett offered little insight into Romo's status, refusing to discuss anything beyond Wednesday's work. But Jones indicated on his radio show that Romo would skip Thursday's practice because that's the first full workout of the week in pads. All season, Romo has missed the first practice, typically on Wednesdays, because of his post-surgery routine.

Romo's trying to make the week as normal as possible.

"I think you just prepare like you always do," he said. "You watch tape. You do what you do in a normal week, and you go and play football."

While Jones was relieved that Romo didn't have a season-ending injury, it was the third different back problem for the first player in franchise history to sign a $100 million contract. He's in the second year of a six-year, $108 million extension with $55 million guaranteed.

"I'll bet if we looked around the league, we'll see a lot of times you have contusions and you have issues with backs," Jones said. "But in no way would it impact whether Tony was our quarterback or not, unless he just can't play."

The Cowboys might not know that answer until Sunday.

NOTES: LB Justin Durant (torn right biceps), the team's leading tackler, and practice squad LB Troy Davis (groin) were placed on season-ending injured reserve. LB Tim Dobbins was signed to the active roster, and LB Will Smith was added to the practice squad. ... The Cowboys waived G Rishaw Johnson (California-PA) from the practice squad and signed G Jeff Baca (UCLA) in his place on Wednesday.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins, in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.


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