Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday that quarterback Tony Romo has undergone season-ending back surgery.
“The procedure happened this morning,” Garrett said. “We felt the surgery went well. Tony should be able to come home later today and start his rehabilitation.”
Kyle Orton will start at quarterback for the Cowboys (8-7) against the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) on Sunday night.
Orton said he was preparting to play Sunday anyway.
“It doesn’t change my mindset,” Orton said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Maybe the other guys. We have had a good week of practice. I’m ready in my mind. …I’m very excited to go out and play.”
The winner of the Cowboys-Eagles game clinches the NFC East title, and the loser will miss the playoffs.
Garrett said Romo really wanted to play.
“He’s devastated,” Garrett said of Romo. “He puts a lot into this.”
The Eagles took a devil-may-care approach to the quarterback questions Thursday.
“I couldn’t care less who their starting quarterback is,” Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said. “I’m going to be ready for Sunday night. Whoever’s out there will be out there.”
Newly-signed veteran Jon Kitna will back up Orton.
“It’s never easy when the quarterback goes down,” Kitna told the Dallas Morning News. “Never, never, never is it easy when the quarterback goes down, especially this late in the year … I feel terrible because he’s kind of put the team on his back this year.”
Romo received an epidural shot Monday to treat a herniated disk in his back and missed practice Thursday. Until Friday, the Cowboys said they were unsure if Romo would play.
“It was marginal,” Garrett said of the treatment. “What you are trying to do is different things to try to change the state he is in. More than anything else, it was tremendous discomfort. I think that was the manifestation of the injury that he had. And again, (he was) talking to a lot of different people that were experts in this field. They felt like it was just the right thing to do. They felt like doing it sooner rather than later was important.”
Romo played several weeks with a cracked rib and punctured lung in 2011. He also stayed in last Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins after the back injury caused pain to shoot down his right leg.
Romo threw for 3,828 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this year.
Owner Jerry Jones said Friday morning Romo should be back for the start of offseason team activities. Because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back, Romo missed much of the Cowboys’ offseason workout schedule in 2013.
“My expectation is that one of the pluses for having had it done as early as this morning is that it would really contribute to him being able to get right there when it comes time for the team to be in OTAs and do the preparation, the beginning of the preparation for next year,” Jones told KRLD-FM. “The OTAs are what we call the equivalent of our spring practice. So we would anticipate him being right on time there and expect it and we’ll see how it goes.”