Tony Romo has not participated in team meetings this week, according to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, and that may be the strongest signal yet that the veteran quarterback won’t be facing the Eagles Sunday.
Garrett told the Philly media in a conference call Thursday afternoon that Romo has been getting treatment for his injured back while the Cowboys’ other quarterbacks, Kyle Orton and Jon Kitna, prepare for the Eagles.
Orton is expected to make his first start since 2011 in the unofficial NFC East championship game Sunday night, when the Eagles and Cowboys meet with a playoff berth at stake.
It’s hard to imagine that Romo would entirely skip position meetings for rehab if he had a realistic chance to play.
“Like a lot of injured players, they spend their time getting the treatment, and they try to learn the football as they go,” Garrett said. “Sometimes it’s not quite as important for them to be in the meeting as it is for them to do everything they can to get themselves healthy and ready for the game. Then you pick up what’s going on as best you can as the week goes on.”
Despite published and broadcast reports that Romo is out for the year and faces surgery to repair a herniated disc, Garrett on Thursday afternoon maintained that no decision has been made about who will start against the Eagles.
“Kyle Orton has taken the reps the last couple days,” Garrett said. “Tony Romo has not practiced. John Kitna has been taking the scout-team reps. We’ll see what Tony’s status is over the next couple days and what his availability is and proceed accordingly.”
Asked whether Romo is improving, Garrett danced around the question.
“I think he’s still trying to get better each and every day,” he said. “I think you’ll have to ask him specifically. It probably comes and goes a little bit. But he’s been in the facility the last couple days getting treatment and again, hopefully, it gets better as the week goes on.”
The Cowboys have one more major practice day -- Friday -- before kickoff Sunday night.
Garrett said generally guys who haven’t practiced all week don’t play on Sunday, but he said he could make an exception for Romo.
“Tony is a guy who is experienced, he knows our offense, he’s played in this system for a long time and his comfort level of playing without practicing I think would be maybe as good as anybody’s,” he said. “Certainly our objective is to have our guys practice to get ready.”
Romo, 33, is now in his 11th season with the Cowboys. He’s 8-5 all-time vs. the Eagles as a starter, including a wild-card playoff win after the 2009 season -- his only career postseason win.
Orton is 1-1 vs. the Eagles, with a win in 2008 while with the Bears and a loss a year later as a Bronco.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said if Romo can possibly find a way to play, he’ll play.
“I know for a fact if there’s any way physically possible that he could do it, he’ll do it,” Witten said. “He’s shown it throughout his career. Just the ultimate competitor, and I’ve never seen anything like it, the way he just continues to fight and find ways …
“If he’s able at all, if he has a chance, then I know he would be out there.”
Romo hasn’t missed a start since 2010, when Kitna -- who re-signed with the Cowboys this week -- went 4-5 in nine starts.
The last Cowboys QB other than Romo to beat the Eagles in a meaningful game was Drew Bledsoe in 2005.
“Tony is an elite quarterback in the National Football League,” Witten said. “He can make all the throws, he extends plays, really played at a high level this year. The reason we’re in this game playing for the division is because of how well he’s played. In my opinion, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he’s shown it week in and week out over the course of the season.
“Kyle, he understands the system, he’s smart, he’s tough, he can throw the ball, he understands what he’s being asked to do as a quarterback, and he’s got great confidence and believes he can go out there and give us a chance to win this game. Great opportunity. Obviously, you would hope everybody’s healthy and ready to go, but you’ve got to be able to handle those circumstances.”