FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo stretched alongside Jason Witten early in practice for the Dallas Cowboys, just as they’ve done for most of the past 10 years.
Then the 36-year-old quarterback went off to run the scout team, and his trusty tight end joined the first-teamers along with rookie Dak Prescott, who has a seven-game winning streak filling in for Romo.
The Dallas starter for a decade, Romo was a full practice participant Wednesday for the first time since breaking a bone in his back in a preseason game in August, his fourth back injury in less than four years.
That didn’t change his spot in the pecking order, which includes veteran Mark Sanchez, the backup to Prescott the first eight games. There’s no reason to change with Dallas (7-1) surging to the best record in the NFC.
“He’s champing at the bit,” coach Jason Garrett said . “But you know we’ll watch him today at practice and see how he does.”
Garrett said the starter usually gets almost all the reps with the first team in practice, and noted an exception the Cowboys made last week when Sanchez ran some situational stuff with the starters Friday.
The next step is determining when Romo will be active on game day, with the first opportunity Sunday at Pittsburgh (4-4).
Even Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who went 13-0 in the regular season as a rookie starter in 2004, doesn’t see that the Cowboys have much choice.
“Taking nothing away from Tony,” said Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls and been named to four Pro Bowls. “He’s been doing it, Pro Bowl, like you said, at a high level. But when you’re winning football games, it’s really hard to replace that one spot.”
Romo hasn’t spoken to reporters since he was injured Aug. 25 at Seattle. Prescott, who has 12 touchdowns and two interceptions and the fourth-best passer rating behind Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, made his usual Wednesday appearance and said all the same things on the Romo front.
“I don’t really think about if I’ve done enough or what I’ve done,” Prescott said.
Garrett said Romo rejoined the quarterback meetings last week, and Prescott said Romo is “nothing but help” when he’s around, which is more often now that he’s mostly moved beyond rehab from the injury.
“Kind of the same stuff he was doing on the field. It’s just I’m getting it earlier in the week,” Prescott said. “I’m getting it Monday, Tuesday instead of coming Sunday.”
Garrett dodged questions whether there was still a medical component in the decision and what the coaches would need to see to determine whether to activate him on Sunday. Romo was inactive for the first eight games.
Romo was on the practice field the past two weeks, but either listed as limited or not participating. At times, he was absent from the early part of practice but appeared later. He was out there from the start Wednesday.
The franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns has missed 20 of the past 22 games, and is closing in on the anniversary of his last start. He threw three interceptions in the first half of a Thanksgiving loss to Carolina before breaking his left collarbone for the second time last season.
“I think it’s all just stages, getting the guys closer and ready to play in a game,” Garrett said. “Tony hasn’t played in a game in nearly a year. So you want to get a guy out there again and again and again, moving around with people around him.”
As each week passes, owner and general manager Jerry Jones shows less urgency about settling the Romo matter.
“Anybody with any sense knows that Tony would like to be playing,” Jones said on his radio show Tuesday. “The key thing that I want to emphasize that we probably are never going to have this totally sorted out. He’s really got to be ready to go at the top of his game. We have the luxury of getting him that ready.”
And Romo has the scout team reps to show it.
NOTES: T Tyron Smith (back) and G Ron Leary (concussion) missed practice. Smith has been held out consistently to manage his back pain, but has been active on game days.
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