Precisely 352 days ago, things were looking up for the Dallas Cowboys. The quarterback of America's Team - Tony Romo - had marched his offense to yet another game winning drive, as the Cowboys began their path towards redemption in 2015 with a divisional win against the Giants.
Redemption may have fit well into the agenda of the Dallas Cowboys a year ago, but not for Father Time, who sets his schedule as purely as the days go by. He made his first appearance just seven days after the Dallas Cowboys' spirited 2015 opening win, as Tony Romo was knocked out on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles with a broken collarbone.
Time healed all wounds, but don't tell that to Cowboys Nation, who passed the time waiting for Romo's return by watching their team drop seven straight games with the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel "commanding" the offense.
All of the losing made Romo's return all the more refreshing, as the Cowboys were functional once again with their leader on the field in Miami during a win over the Dolphins. That is, until later in the week when Thanksgiving night and Father Time would spell the end of Tony Romo's 2015 season with a second collarbone break.
At the time, we didn't think about the long-term future for Romo and his football team.
In fact, it was almost slightly reassuring, knowing that the collective eyes of the team and its fans could turn towards 2016 - where the calendar would be flipped, talent would be added, and the revenge would finally come for the silver and blue.
Poetically, the 2016 season took a great turn 11 short days ago, as Romo made his debut against the Dolphins at home, and played in two series while going unscathed. The winning ways of the Cowboys were back, until they weren't.
Father Time came back to greet #9 with a scary back injury the following week in Seattle on just the third play of the game. For the second time in his last three games, Tony Romo was down on the field in a helpless amount of pain. As he has done countless times, Tony fought back to walk off the field on his own power, before being forced to sit out for the remainder of the action by his Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Romo even took a shot back at Father Time. His post game comments about feeling good about being able to survive a real hit like this allowed Cowboys Nation to begin their slow exhale - until our breaths were taken away completely all at once again.
Now it was time to talk about the end of an era. Now was the time for Romo to consider retirement. Now was the time for the Cowboys to plan for a future without one of their franchises' best ever quarterbacks and never look back. These were all things we heard after learning three days ago that Romo had broken his L1 vertebrae, and that his regular season return would not be happening anytime soon.
What we do know is that Romo's return will indeed happen. While it will be ignored by the masses, multiple doctors have assessed Romo's injury as one that should absolutely not force retirement.
Monday Morning MD: No medical reason for Tony Romo to retire https://t.co/qFUkzlDvG1 via @footballpost
Yet another significant injury setback is certainly not great for Romo at this stage in his career, but that is not to say that the veteran does not have some winning football - or "Romo magic" - left in him.
Playing 16 games in 2016 was always going to be a long shot for Tony Romo, and now that is already guaranteed to not happen. Instead, the Cowboys can wholeheartedly expect a fired up Romo to come back at some point in the season where the games will mean more, and the big wins need to be delivered.
I'm here to say that Romo still has those wins in him, at least through the end of this season. The Cowboys' offense is loaded with talent outside of Romo, enough to instill confidence in rookie Dak Prescott to handle the burden of being thrown into starting.
A big reason for Dak's success so far has been his teammates helping him out with some big plays. While it will be great to see more of that from Dak and his pass catchers in the regular season, imagine the spark that players like Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and Ezekiel Elliott will play with once Romo is under center.
Nine wins was all it took to win the NFC East last year, and the division appears wide open once again. It is wide open for a Tony Romo amount of wins to bring a team to the playoffs in 2016, where anything is possible.
Tony Romo's story is winding to a close, but he will write his final chapters on the field where he belongs. The ultimate competitor that he is, Romo has some big things in store for us in 2016.
Until then, let's appreciate Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and the entirety of this Cowboys team - all of whom understand what Romo means to their chances at success.
We won't be able to say this at some point. That is an objective fact. Father Time will make sure of this. Until then though, Tony Romo is my quarterback - and your quarterback as well.
Our quarterback hasn't quit. Next man up.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers
When Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten retired from the NFL last month, he left behind an unproven group of tight ends for the Cowboys to field as Witten moves on to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. This is not a TE group short of potential, although that's nothing new for the laundry list of players that have failed at the position behind the Hall of Fame bound Witten.
Headlining this group of potential heirs to Witten has to be 2016 draft pick Rico Gathers. Not yet given the same opportunities that Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are receiving through the Cowboys ongoing mini camp, Gathers has been criticized for his commitment to his team.
Looking to make the transition from the basketball court at Baylor to the football field, Gathers' journey began at Witten's soon-to-be home forever. Playing his first organized football game since middle school, Gathers and Witten were teammates in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio in 2017.
A game rarely leaving fans with a lasting memories, Gathers immediately flashed potential in the passing game, hauling in three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Gathers would go on to spend the season on IR after a concussion suffered in practice, recovering from it in time to return but never seeing the field.
This leaves Gathers' prospects of putting it all together in year three at a difficult crossroads. It will be hard to question Gathers' commitment moving forward, as the message from his former teammate Jason Witten still lives with him.
If Witten truly sees a "bright future" for Rico Gathers, who Head Coach Jason Garrett says needs work in the running game, there is no reason the Cowboys can't find a role for him this season. With an entirely unproven group of wide receivers, Gathers could be the reliable mismatch for Dak Prescott to target in the middle of the field.
Prescott was the ninth worst quarterback in the league last season in red zone completion percentage, surely something the 6'6" TE Gathers could help improve.
Gathers may be a long way off from becoming Prescott's version of Witten to Tony Romo, but there is still hope for the 2016 draft pick, according to now football analyst Jason Witten.
David Irving to be Present at Dallas Cowboys Minicamp
David Irving has been a notable name throughout the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, for both on the field and off the field headlines. First, his RFA tender had fans and analysts wondering just what the Cowboys would do with him. Many, myself included, thought placing anything lower than a first-round tender on the stud defensive tackle would mean he was collecting sacks for someone else in 2018.
Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys' gamble paid off and they were able to save some money by only having the second-round tender applied to 2018.
Then came the accusation of domestic violence from his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, catching us off-guard just before OTAs began in May. Which was then retracted not long after the initial report.
After all of that had quieted down, most of the talk revolved around David Irving not being in shape for OTAs. Not having been around for much of the offseason work the last several weeks before OTAs would keep Irving from working out.
He's had a lot going on in his life lately away from the game of football, and understandably so. As a father to a young child, I can see how you'd get distracted from your job when family stuff comes into play that affects the well-being of your child.
On the football side of things, at least, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Today, it's being reported that David Irving will in fact be present for this week's mandatory minicamp.
Also, the Cowboys expect DL David Irving to participate in the 3-day mandatory minicamp that begins today at The Star, a source said. The Cowboys could have both Irving and RG Zack Martin back on the practice field if Martin's contract extension gets finalized this morning.
You may be asking yourself, "what's the big deal? Irving isn't Aaron Donald."
Well, you're mostly right.
Perhaps next to Donald, David Irving was the most disruptive interior player in the NFL last season. David Irving had seven sacks in the eight games he played in.
Read that again. Seven sacks in eight games. That would be 14 sacks over the course of the season if that pace were to continue to play out.
Aaron Donald had 11 sacks in 2017.
Pro Football Focus rated David Irving as its third best pass rusher among interior defensive linemen.
Dominant interior defenders.
To go along with Irving's seven sacks in eight games -- every time I read that I'm floored -- he recorded six passes defended. That was good for second in the NFL at the defensive tackle position and was second on the Dallas Cowboys.
Again, in only eight games played.
Even if you were to pace out his tackle numbers over 16 games, they aren't very spectacular -- 26 solo and 18 assisted -- but he'd still finish in the top 30 among defensive tackles.
Only two other players in the NFL had seven or more sacks and six or more pass breakups; New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan and Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Carlos Dunlap. Both of those guys played in all 16 games and, while I hate to keep bringing this up, Irving only played in eight.
He's an elite interior defender who has only gotten better since joining Rod Marinelli and the Dallas Cowboys.
If he's able to get his personal life in order -- and that most assuredly comes first -- he's going to be a wrecking ball for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.
Getting Zack Martin's contract extension completed was probably the most important task of the summer, but getting David Irving back into the practice fold is a close second.
With him and DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a tremendous 2017, the sky is the limit for those two in 2018.
With all the improvement that was made on the defensive side of the ball, I can't help but think of the sign that Greg Hardy paid for several years ago.
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