IRVING, Texas — Tony Romo doesn’t need surgery on his broken left collarbone, just time for it to heal.
He may have all the way until the spring minicamp.
Romo is expected to miss between six and eight weeks, which could be an eternity for the 1-5 Dallas Cowboys. If their playoff hopes aren’t already squelched, they likely will be by the time their Pro Bowl quarterback is healthy again. So perhaps team owner Jerry Jones will end up telling Romo to call it a season and rest up for 2011.
Think about it: Considering how wretched the Cowboys were led by their star, it seems unlikely they will turn things around while led by 38-year-old backup Jon Kitna, who hadn’t thrown a pass in more than two years before Monday night and whose last gig as a starter was on the Detroit club that went winless in 2008.
“We’re not going to stop right now and give up or quit or whine or even make excuses,” coach Wade Phillips said Tuesday. “You’ve just got to go forward. That’s what we have to do. I think our guys will band together.”
Dallas opened training camp being hyped as favorites to reach the Super Bowl, which will be played at Jones’ $1.2 billion stadium. The Cowboys already were on the brink of being left behind when Romo threw a pass early in the second quarter, then took a hard — but clean — hit from New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley.
Boley drove Romo into the ground on his left shoulder, leaving him flat on his back. Boley heard Romo “let out a little scream” and the quarterback had trouble breathing and regaining his senses. X-rays taken immediately showed the fracture and further tests Tuesday, including a CT scan, confirmed the initial diagnosis.
Phillips spoke with Romo on Tuesday and described him as disappointed.
“He’s going to be sad for a while,” Phillips said.
Romo also may be peeved at rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski, who was supposed to have gotten in Boley’s way.
“We just made a mistake,” Phillips said. “It certainly was unfortunate for Tony. It was a base thing that we’ve run since training camp. That was the discouraging thing. … (Romo) just fell the wrong way. He’s been hit before, but this time it was more serious.”
Troy Aikman had the same injury in 1998 and missed seven weeks. Even at the best-case scenario of six weeks, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys being contenders by then. Base that on how they’ve played so far as well as who they have coming up: four clubs with winning records (Packers, Giants again, Saints and Colts) and a pair of downtrodden clubs that would love kicking someone else when they are down, especially when that team is the Cowboys (Jaguars on Sunday, Lions).
“We got one game left — one game, that’s it,” Phillips said, refusing to look beyond Jacksonville’s visit to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. “You can talk about 10 games, and this game, and hard schedule and all that. We’ve got one game. We’ve got to play that game. We’ve got to play as hard as we can play. And try to win that ball game, and that’s what we are going to do.”
This season is such a disaster that 2010 already is connected to two of the worst teams in club history: 1989 (1-15 in the first year of Jones’ ownership) and 1960 (0-11-1 in franchise’s inaugural year). At least both those teams had excuses for being so terrible.
The only other time Dallas was this bad this early was in 1963. Coach Tom Landry’s fourth team was expected to be up-and-comers, but struggled and was further hurt by the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas. After going 4-10, Landry received a 10-year contract extension to show how much management believed in him.
Ah, how times have changed.
The only job security for Phillips is that Romo’s absence helps ensure his employment the rest of this season. Jones has been adamant about wanting to keep him and might as well since it’s a lost cause anyway.
“Romo getting hurt doesn’t affect the way I feel about Wade,” Jones said after the game.
With the Cowboys losing their relevancy before Halloween, local sports fans can turn their attention to the Rangers in the World Series or the Mavericks season that begins Wednesday night. The football loyalists are probably working on their mock drafts, guessing whether Jones will want to spruce up the offensive line or go for another “wow” pick such as Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys probably won’t go looking for another quarterback because they already have millions of dollars and 1½ seasons invested in Kitna and his backup, Stephen McGee, a fourth-round pick from Texas A&M in 2009.
Kitna was out of whack for much of the second and third quarters — while the defense was giving up 31 unanswered points, including scores on five straight drives; Phillips described it as “a lull after Tony left.” Trailing 38-20, Kitna threw two touchdown passes in the final few minutes, narrowing the final score to 41-35 and giving Phillips hope for the coming weeks.
“I think he’ll do a good job,” Phillips said. “That’s why we got him — in case things like this happen.”