The Dallas Cowboys are suddenly caught in a quarterback quandary. Tony Romo could be out until Week 8 and there is uncertainty surrounding rookie Dak Prescott.
Jason Garrett's squad was dealt a crushing blow when the veteran All-Pro quarterback Romo was hit awkwardly in his surgically repaired back in last week’s preseason loss to Seattle. The hit reportedly resulted in an L1 compression fracture in Romo’s vertebrae that could leave him sidelined for six to 10 weeks.
However, there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Cowboys' front office and coaching staff on when Romo can come back this season. Owner Jerry Jones and team executive vice president Stephen Jones have said Prescott will be the starter in Week 1’s NFC East showdown with the rival New York Giants, but Garrett, as of yet, hasn’t ruled out Romo.
"He just going to start getting into rehab and part of his rehab is he's going to be wearing a back brace for now,'' Garrett told reporters Sunday. "So you'll see him around wearing that.
"Again, we'll take his situation day by day like we do with every guy on our team and every injury that we have. He'll do the things that he's capable of doing and won't do the things he's not capable of doing and hopefully he'll progress every day.''
While also stressing that Romo should come back this season and that this new injury isn’t nearly as severe as the ones that kept the 36-year-old out of all but four games last season, Jerry Jones offered high praise for the fourth-round Mississippi State selection who’s dazzled during the preseason, completing 39 of his 50 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns. Prescott would be the first rookie to start for the Cowboys since Quincy Carter in 2001.
"Dak has certainly, without question, created tangible energy on our team during training camp,'' Jones said. "Him going out and making some plays in the ballgame is just the tip of the iceberg.
"It's his preparation. It's how he carries himself, everything, the whole effort it takes to make a quarterback in the NFL. The quality of his preparation is a real comforting thought here.
"We're early in this thought process as to totally how we'll respond, but not as to whether or not he's a starter."
Prescott stayed on the draft board until Dallas selected him in the fourth round and after seven quarterbacks were picked ahead of him. Scouts have had questions about the 23-year-old's mechanics and quickness.
There aren't many options for Dallas. Kellen Moore, 27, suffered a broken right fibula earlier this month and could miss the majority of the season. With Romo and Moore hurt, Jameill Showers is currently the No. 2 quarterback and should see plenty of action Thursday in the Cowboys' preseason finale against Houston.
But Romo's recovery remains the major storyline. Garrett wouldn’t fully speculate on Romo’s return or the projected layover of at least six weeks.
"There is no reason for me to stand up here and put a timetable on this,'' Garrett said. "A lot of other people outside this building have suggested they know what the timetable is. That's not the world we live in.''
As of today, if Romo returns on the earlier side of the reported timetable he’d stare down another NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Oct. 30 following the bye.
Any later, and assuming Prescott’s played well but not well enough to completely usurp Romo’s place in the starting lineup, Romo could return in Week 9 or Week 10, when Dallas is at Cleveland and at Pittsburgh, respectively. Or, if no setbacks, the Cowboys later have a two-game homestand against Baltimore and Washington.