Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo’s Broken Back And How Others Dealt With It


It’s worth documenting via this blog and any other Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is making a conscious choice to be a tough guy this week. He doesn’t have anything to prove to me after returning from a punctured lung to lead the Cowboys to an overtime victory against a pretty tough road opponent in 2011.

But this is who Romo is. We can fret over his injury and whether or not he should rest, but if Romo can function he’s going to play, regardless of the risks. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said as much after Romo suffered a herniated disk in a comeback win over the Washington Redskins in Week 16 last year:

"“Line one with Tony Romo is his competitive spirit. When you evaluate him, that’s what you love about him more than anything else.”"

Romo will attempt to start today against the Jacksonville Jaguars, having missed just one game after cracking two transverse process bones in his back. I wondered if that’s a normal recovery time from this kind of injury, so I scanned the internet to see what’s out there.

It’s been well-documented this week that former Cowboys backup quarterback Brad Johnson suffered two transverse process fractures in 2002, while a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson would miss the last two games of the season. After a first-round playoff bye, Johnson and the Bucs would win three straight and a Super Bowl title.

You just don’t take it for granted that you get to play this game for a living. It’s special. – Tony Romo

Former Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James missed three games in 2003 with a similar injury. The Pro Bowler cracked two transverse processes in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. James didn’t play again until Week 8, sitting out three weeks leading up to the Colts’ Week 7 bye.

Oddly enough that same week in 2003 another Pro Bowler, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, broke three of his transverse processes while scoring a rushing touchdown in a win over the Detroit Lions. Culpepper would sit out Weeks 4 and 5, then get some extra rest during the Vikings’ Week 6 bye.

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  • In each case, the team allowed the injured player to rest through a bye week. Johnson and Culpepper each too three weeks off and James rested for four. Romo missed the Cowboys Week 9 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but will not extend is rest before the team’s Week 11 bye. He was asked about that choice this week:

    "“I’m a football player. This is what I do for my life’s work. It’s important to me. I care about playing and competing and helping this football team win. And you’re only afforded so many opportunities at that, so you want to take advantage of that when you have that opportunity. And I think if you love the game you’ll always try and get on the field.”"

    When asked about playing through pain, Romo took it a little further:

    "“You love playing the game. You just don’t take it for granted that you get to play this game for a living. It’s special. And any time you miss a game, it’s just hard.”"

    From his dynamic playmaking ability, to his granite-jawed toughness, to his genuine understanding that he is lucky man leading a blessed life, I can’t comprehend how there are any Cowboys fans who don’t love this guy.

    Is it because he’s not a “winner?” Roger Staubach won two Super Bowls with two different iterations of the famed Doomsday Defense. Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls with three Top-5 scoring defenses (and failed to win four other seasons with Top-5 scoring defenses).

    Romo hasn’t enjoyed that kind of support year in and year out, but the franchise is heading in the right direction. As he continues to play through pain and battle injury, let’s hope Romo’s body holds up long enough to benefit the way his predecessors did.