IRVING, Texas — The return of Tony Romo remains on hold.
Since Romo broke his left collarbone Oct. 25, the Dallas Cowboys have pointed toward having him back in the lineup this week. However, team owner Jerry Jones said Sunday he was not optimistic and Monday interim coach Jason Garrett was very noncommittal.
"We’ll just see how he does tomorrow, see how he feels," Garrett said.
The Cowboys are usually off on Tuesdays, but will be practicing because they play Saturday night in Arizona. They only have two games left and can’t make the playoffs, so it seems pointless to take even a minimal risk of Romo getting hurt.
Besides, Jon Kitna has done just fine as the starting quarterback. Their statistics are quite similar, with the notable exception of Dallas going 1-5 in Romo’s starts and 4-4 with Kitna. There’s no quarterback controversy, though, because Kitna is 38 and Romo remains the face of the franchise.
If anything, the Cowboys would be better off checking out third-stringer Stephen McGee just to see if the second-year QB is a keeper.
Dallas could have placed Romo on injured reserve a long time ago, ending his season and freeing up a roster spot for someone else. But Jones was holding out hope that Romo could return, especially since all he needed was rest, not surgery, to repair the bone on his non-throwing side.
The outlook dimmed after seeing Romo throw before the game Sunday.
"Frankly, he’s still having sensitivity there," Jones said. "We’re a little behind where I thought we would be on how healthy he is. ... He’s not ready to play. That doesn’t mean he might not get out there throw and practice, but he’s not ready."
Another issue is defining readiness.
When a guy is slightly banged up, he usually has to make it through one practice to prove he can be effective in a game. Romo has missed eight games and hasn’t practiced at all since the injury. The Cowboys are expected to practice in pads Tuesday, so that could be a stiff test for him.
Then again, he’s the most experienced guy in this offense, which Garrett coordinated for 3 1/2 years before getting promoted. So he should be able to pick things up quickly — if he’s healthy enough.
"I think you want to see any player feel comfortable practicing before you put them in a game-type situation, regardless of their experience," Garrett said.
How long does it take to get comfortable?
"It probably varies from player to player," he said.
When asked why the Cowboys haven’t just given up on Romo this season, Garrett said, "It’s just important to evaluate on a day-to-day basis." Even he laughed at his evasiveness.
The question of how hard Dallas should be trying has been debated among fans lately. While they are rooting for a better draft pick, Jones wants to have a competitive enough team to sell seats and luxury suites at his $1.2 billion stadium and Garrett is trying to shed the interim label. The Cowboys beat Washington 33-30 on Sunday to improve to 4-2 since Garrett took over.
"We try our best to win every week," Garrett said. "We try our best to go about it the right way. Our young players who need to be evaluated understand that approach and they glob onto it. When they get their opportunities, hopefully they’ll do that. A lot of guys have gotten a lot of opportunities in recent weeks and we got a chance to evaluate them. We’ll continue to try to put our best forward this week against Arizona."
But Garrett isn’t really making way for the youngsters. Those who have gotten on the field lately have entered the lineup because of injuries. For instance, Sam Hurd was the second receiver and Manny Johnson the third on Sunday but only because Roy Williams was inactive with a groin injury and Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree were on injured reserve.
"We’re not going to force any young player into action," Garrett said. "We’ve had a chance to see a lot of young guys because of the injuries that we have had."
Does that mean the youngsters who aren’t playing aren’t good enough?
"You have to earn your opportunities to play," Garrett said. "It’s a competitive league."
Garrett said it’s too soon to know whether safety Gerald Sensabaugh and rookie linebacker Sean Lee will recover from their concussions in time to play against the Cardinals.
"They have to be symptom free as they go through each of the stages," Garrett said. "So we’ll just go through that process."