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Cowboys preparing for Orton to start at QB
By: Tom Orsborn|San Antonio Express-News, writer
IRVING All those feel-good vibes produced by the Dallas Cowboys thrilling, come-from-behind victory over the Washington Redskins evaporated Monday with the stunning news that Tony Romos injured back likely will sideline him the remainder of the season.
Although numerous reports surfaced that Romo has a herniated disk that will require surgery, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wouldnt rule the quarterback out for Sunday nights NFC East title game with the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. But at the same time, Garrett suggested the teams playoff hopes will likely rest with backup Kyle Orton.
Thats a daunting prospect, considering Romo, 33, is one of the leagues top passers with a 96.7 rating, 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Orton, meanwhile, hasnt started since the 2011 regular season finale when he was with Kansas City.
Despite Ortons rust, the Cowboys insist they have faith in the 31-year-old nine-year veteran, who Dallas signed to a three-year, $10.5 million deal in 2012 that included a $5 million signing bonus.
We have Kyle Orton here for a reason, Garrett said. Hes a veteran who has started over 80 games (actually 69) in the National Football League Kyle knows he has to be ready.
Orton is 35-34 as a starter. In three appearances for Dallas, hes attempted just 15 passes.
Kyle has played at a high level and had a lot of success in the league, so hes somebody we respect, tight end Jason Witten said.
All seemed normal at Valley Ranch until around 3:30 p.m., when reports first surfaced that an MRI on Romos back was positive for something well beyond soreness. Citing a league source, ESPN was the first to report Romo would miss the rest of the season, which boils down to Sunday nights regular season finale and possibly the playoffs should Dallas (8-7) beat Philadelphia (9-6).
The news stunned team staffers and had reporters scurrying to their laptops and phones. It also delayed the start of Garretts scheduled 3:45 p.m. news conference by more than 30 minutes.
When Garrett finally met with the media, he declined to reveal the MRI results and pronounced Romo day to day.
I dont want to get into the medical part of it, Garrett said, but I will tell you what his status is going forward: Hes going to get treatment each day. Hes been getting treatment all day today and hell continue to get it. Well evaluate it day to day and see what his status is for Wednesday and for this coming week.
Romo started to limp noticeably after linebacker Rob Jackson pressured him early in the fourth quarter on a completion to Miles Austin.
It looked like he got leg whipped and the sock came down and he kind of kept his eyes up and made the completion, Garrett said. You could tell he was hobbling a little bit there. His reaction to me when he came off was more like, My leg is bothering me.
Afterward, Romo grimaced noticeably in the locker room while dressing. He walked gingerly into the interview room at FedEx Field, but indicated he would play against the Eagles.
I tweaked it, Romo said. For whatever reason, just the twist or whatever it was definitely just made it not feel comfortable.
Remarkably, Romo capped a rally from a 9-point fourth quarter deficit with a 10-yard TD pass to DeMarco Murray on fourth and goal with 1:08 left.
Afterward, Jerry Jones said Romo suffered muscle tightness that wouldnt prevent him playing. The owner also said Romo first hurt his back in practice last week and that the injury wasnt related to back surgery he had last summer.
Jones gave Romo a six-year, $108 million extension in March that included a guaranteed $55 million.
Vegas oddsmakers took immediate notice of Romos misfortune. The point spread opened Sunday night with the Eagles as a 2-point favorite only to jump to 7 Monday afternoon.
Garrett was asked why fans should still believe the Cowboys can topple the Eagles and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Its the next man up philosophy, Garrett said. Thats alive and well in our organization. Its something we believe in.
Kyle has played in this league for a long time. He has started a lot of games. Guys have a lot of confidence in him. We have a lot of confidence in him. He has a lot of confidence in himselfWe feel awfully good about that situation if Tony is not available.
Since Romo became a starter in 2006, the Cowboys are 6-7 without him. He missed three games in 2008 (broken finger) and 10 games in 2010 (broken collarbone).
Romo and Orton are the only two QBs on the 53-man roster, so Dallas will sign another passer soon. Free agents David Carr, John Skelton and Tyler Thigpen will reportedly audition Tuesday.
But the spotlight will fall squarely on Orton when practice resumes Wednesday.
Weve liked Kyle for a long time, Garrett said. We liked him coming out of school. Hes a heck of a player. He plays the position the way its supposed to be played. Hes very prepared. Hes experienced. He throws the football very well. Hes smart. Hes tough. Hes accurate. He understands what were trying to do on offense. He understands defenses. He knows where the ball needs to do. He has the poise, the calmness, the composure of a veteran.