How long did it take you to finally appreciate Tony Romo?
Did it happen quickly? Did you immediately fall in love when he entered that game in 2006? Was it after his first playoff victory in 2009? Was it last year when he played as efficient as it gets leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record with a playoff victory? Or was it this season, when you realized what life is like without number nine under center?
You don't know what you got 'til it's gone.
One of the most important sayings in this world holds true when it comes to Tony Romo.
The saddest part...the end may be sooner than any of us want to think it is...myself included.
While I have firmly believed the Cowboys should address the quarterback position via the draft for the past couple years, I have always thought it would be so that Romo could train the young player and we could have a seamless transition in a couple of years.
I always childishly thought that Romo would be my quarterback forever. As a 23-year-old Dallas Cowboys fan, Romo was the first great Cowboys quarterback I ever got to watch. I have several different versions of his jersey. I have his FatHead on the wall of my basement, with a signed picture of him accompanying it. My girlfriend painted a picture of Romo and Dez and that hangs in my bedroom. Tony Romo is that connection that I have from childhood to adulthood. Someone that will always be very important to me.
With that being said, it really hit a nerve this weekend when I heard about how the hit Romo took in week one against the Giants brought him back to where he was in week one against the 49ers in 2014.
Tony Romo played a large portion of 2014 and with an entire offseason, I thought we would see a Tony Romo as healthy as he's been in some time. The back should have been stronger. The aches and pains you get from playing such a physical sport your entire life should be lessened...and BOOM...one hit sends Romo right back to where he was.
Then there is the obvious, the fractured collarbone which he re-fractured just one week after returning.
All of this put together made me sit and think about this. One hit sent Romo back to where he was in week one of 2014? Someone so sparingly hit is getting hurt this often? Romo needed a day off on the Wednesday before his return against the Dolphins after sitting for all those weeks? What is really going on with my quarterback?
The reality is...Tony Romo is not what he used to be physically. I think we all tend to remove ourselves from the human aspect of pro sports and celebrities in general. Think about it, you play one game of football and I bet you wake up the next day as sore as could be. Yes, that is probably because you are doing something that your muscles aren't used to. So then imagine playing an entire season of football, or any sport for that matter. I bet you wake up everyday with some sort of ache or pain. You get that numb feeling in your shoulder or your knee, etc. where you just feel the fatigue.
Picture that...but magnify it across twenty or so years. Think back to the Tony Romo playing football and basketball in high school. Then the same guy playing in college...and so on and so forth. Think about all the hits he has taken. Think about all the days and nights he has felt sore or achy. Take into account the amount of serious injuries Romo has sustained over his career. It all starts to add up.
Yes, there have been plenty of players who have played much later into their careers. Look at Tom Brady still dominating at 38 and Peyton Manning finally starting to regress at 39. These are nice stories, but every player is different and father-time chooses to strike people at different times.
Tony Romo plays a much different type of football than Manning or Brady. Romo has made a living off of being athletic. No, he's not Russell Wilson or Michael Vick, but Romo would scramble, avoid pressure, take heavy hits...all while making big plays.
We know that Romo has taken Toradol a ton of times over his career.
Toradol is a heavy-duty anti-inflammatory drug. It reduces hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Toradol is a very controversial drug in sports today as the long-term effects of the drug are unknown.
His performance last season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving can be attributed to lack of Toradol in some minds. With the quick turnaround, it would be unhealthy for Romo to have taken another dose of Toradol for that Thanksgiving game.
This made me think about Romo's performances on Thanksgiving as of late. In 2014, Romo was 18-29 for 199 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs, good for a 53.7 QB rating. In 2015, Romo was 11-21 for 106 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs, good for a 27.2 QB rating.
Since injuring his back, Romo has chucked up two of his worst career performances ever, on Thanksgiving. I wonder what we can expect from Romo on a short week in the future. Can both of these instances be attributed to lack of Toradol? Are the aches and pains from football so extreme that Romo can't play in a short week? If Romo needs to sit every Wednesday practice, and we see what he does when forced to play on a Thursday, what does that tell you?
Then there is this which I found in a New York Times article about Toradol:
"The limit I’m worried about is, does it dull the pain so much that it dulls the body part they’ve injured?" said Dr. Carla C. Keirns, a medical ethicist at Stony Brook University, adding that athletes could be prone to reinjury because the warning signs of pain are muted.
If all of that isn't enough to cause concern for Tony Romo, he is entering his age 36 season. To expect him to come back healthy and continue to be great would be expecting too much. Can he come back and play 16 games and lead this team to a great season? Of course he can. However, you have to consider some of the things that will happen to a quarterback who is 36 years old.
At ages 35-36, quarterbacks see a drop off in their play. Keep in mind, we didn't see Tony Romo play his age 35 season due to injury. We should see decreased arm strength. Will Romo be able to hit the deep ball like he did two years ago? Will he be able to throw an out route from the slot to the sideline with velocity? Will he have the same touch we expect? Will he be able to do some of the athletic pocket moves that make him so special?
More importantly, will Tony Romo be thinking about his back and shoulder when the defense is caving down on him? You can make an argument that protecting his back is why Romo has gone down like he has when injuring his collarbone. Not to mention the rib issues that he has had over his career.
I am as big a fan of Tony Romo as you will ever meet. It was hard coming to this realization. Part of me knew this was going to come, but I wanted to refuse the thought as long as I could. Unfortunately, this came quick during the 2015 season.
It is extremely important for the Dallas Cowboys to have a plan in place in case they have less of Tony Romo than they thought. I think you have Jerry Jones feeling the same way I do, and most fans do about Romo. We want to refuse the thought that we will ever see number 9 hang it up one day.
While we have that guy, it is extremely important to not only back him up, but to use the opportunity to have a young quarterback sit, watch and learn from Tony Romo. It could be a real luxury to not have to thrust someone into the fire so early. Don't make the mistake of waiting too long and not letting your young quarterback learn and be as ready as possible. Tony Romo is as good a player to learn from on-the-field and off-the-field.
Nobody wants the day when someone other than Tony Romo is behind center. It will hurt even more if they are not prepared when that day comes.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
Cedrick Wilson: Cowboys WR Could Shine After a Year Off
The departure of Cole Beasley to Buffalo via free agency in March left a hole at the slot receiver position in Dallas. The team signed veteran Randall Cobb about a week later, but only to a one year deal. Names like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns along with Cobb are looked at as the replacement for Beasley but don't forget about Cedrick Wilson.
Selected in the sixth round in 2018, Wilson was coming off an impressive and highly productive two-year career at Boise State. Tallying 139 receptions for 2,640 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 26 games.
When OTA's began last season, the rookie was already turning heads with his route running, ability to create separation and athleticism, but unfortunately, disaster happened not long afterward. Wilson would suffer a shoulder injury that placed him on injured reserve for 2018, the same shoulder he had issues with in college. A not so fairy tale beginning to an NFL career.
Although his time on the field was short-lived last summer, he definitely caught the eye of wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
"Ced's a savvy, smart football player. He picks things up really well. He applies them to the field. In terms of technique, he's one of the best if you watch him. His stance and start is really good. He comes off the ball with low pad level. He's eating up ground and then has a nack to make a big play over the top on a big post," Lal said.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb make up a very formidable receiving core, and adding a healthy Wilson to that could work wonders. His experience on the outside and the slot gives offensive coordinator Kellen Moore plenty of options. Slot receivers are usually harder to bump off the line with the extra few yards of cushion they get, giving them more options route wise seeing as they can go inside or out a lot easier than outside receivers. That's where Wilson's supreme route running can come into play. Also, with his ability to separate on the outside and beat corners deep, you can play him opposite Amari Cooper and put Cobb in the slot with a combination of either Gallup, Austin or Hurns in a four-wide receiver set, the possibilities are endless.
A setback can be a blessing in disguise if approached in the right manner. Wilson hasn't let the year off derail his focus on what he's trying to do in Dallas.
"Coming back off the rehab was tough in general. But definitely a year of just seeing how everything goes, the speed is definitely slowing down. Just getting back in the playbook and learning from older guys of what I need to do and doing what the coaches expect of me," Wilson said.
The competition won't be easy for Wilson, though, as other young up and coming receivers are fighting for roster spots as well. UDFA's (Undrafted Free Agents) Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton will also be fighting for snaps during mini-camp, with the former already making waves during OTA's. Reggie Davis has also turned a few heads in the summer, a fellow UDFA himself trying to find a home after bouncing around the league between four different teams since 2017.
It's all about health for Cedrick Wilson at this point. Can his shoulder hold up enough to allow his skill set to make a contribution to the Cowboys in 2019? The talent is there, along with the praises of his position coach, now it'll be interesting to see if this potential diamond in the rough can shine under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.
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