The pain was too great and the treatments, including an epidural for a herniated disk in his back, didn’t help Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as he underwent back surgery Friday morning and was placed on injured reserve, officially ending his season.
Coach Jason Garrett said Romo was emotional after realizing he needed surgery and wouldn’t be able to play in Sunday’s all-important regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He’s devastated,” Garrett said. “He puts a lot into this.”
Kyle Orton will start for the Cowboys against the Eagles. The winner will earn the NFC East title and a trip to the playoffs, while the season will come to an end for the loser.
“We prepared good this week, especially today,” wide receiver Dez Bryant said. “We’re going to lay it all on the line and we’re going to win this one for Tony. Everybody has to raise their game up just a little bit more.”
Romo suffered the injury in the Week 16 game against the Washington Redskins.
“This was the right decision for him, and this is the right decision for our organization,” Garrett said of Romo. “He started his road to recovery, and he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
Cowboys officials say this surgery is unrelated to a procedure he had in the spring to remove a cyst, and team owner Jerry Jones said Romo should be ready for organized team activities in the spring.
“One of the pluses for having had it done as early as [Friday] morning is that it would really contribute to him being able to get right when it comes time for the team to be in OTAs,” Jones said on KRLD-FM. “The OTAs are what we call the equivalent of our spring practice, so we would anticipate him being right on time there. We’ll see how it goes.”
Cowboys officials won’t say what type of surgery Romo had, but sources told ESPN that it was to repair a herniated disk.
“It was marginal,” Garrett said of the treatment Romo went through this week. “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 finishes the season having thrown for 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has played through injuries throughout his career, including a cracked rib, a punctured lung and a sore back.
“I’m a big Romo fan, so I feel bad for Tony,” Hall of Famer Roger Staubach said Friday at the Armed Forces Bowl kickoff luncheon in Fort Worth. “He’s a tough son-of-a-gun, though. He was hurt in that game against the Redskins. That back had to be a real problem for him, yet he gutted it out and we at least have a shot at winning the East.
“I wish he was at quarterback (against the Eagles), but I really feel with our offense that if Kyle gets time in the pocket, he’ll be effective.”
Cowboys offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau said: “We kind of had that mindset that he might not be able to go. Kyle’s going to step in there. He’s a great quarterback, confident in his abilities and what he can do, confident in the play calling. It’s unfortunate. You wish Tony the best of health, but you’ve still got to step in and play and do what you can do.”
While Cowboys officials claim the back injury happened after scrambling away from a defender in the second half against the Redskins, Romo was seen limping in practice three days prior to that game. After that practice, however, Romo said he was just sore, and he didn’t limp at practice the following day.
This isn’t the first major back surgery for a Cowboys franchise quarterback. In the summer of 1993, future Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman underwent surgery for a herniated disk. He was able to start the season on time and eventually led the Cowboys past the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.