Tony Romo has been busy over the last year.
He got married and played in a bunch of golf tournaments, assuring that we haven't lacked for news about the Cowboys quarterback. The one thing that he hasn't done is played much football.
It was just the sixth week of the 2010 season when Romo suffered the broken collarbone that ended his season. He's looked fine at practice so far and a man with five years as a starting quarterback under his belt doesn't need much to find his groove once back on the field.
But, as Romo himself points out, the on-field groove is just part of what needs to come for the Cowboys to be successful this season.
"As you get older you get into the second phase where you've learned a lot of the stuff and understand the fundamentals. You're now in a position where it's about bringing people with you and getting the team to play at a high enough level to get to the next step."
It's a bit strange to look at Romo's age and see 31 staring back at you. He has long felt like a callow quarterback, finding a way to harness his obvious talent and direct it into the kind of winning leadership we've seen from so many other quarterbacks over the years. Now there are just a handful of players older than him on the roster, which means that Romo will have to step into that second phase or watch the team suffer another down year because no one is leading them.
The hard part for Romo is that he enters this phase of his career while quarterbacking a team that's clearly in transition mode. There could be two rookie starters on the offensive line, Felix Jones is trying to prove he's capable of being the workhorse tailback he hasn't had to be thus far in his career and the team is thin at wide receiver and several spots on the defense.
Romo has played at a very high level since taking over as starter in 2006, but the team around him hasn't always matched his output. He can only win so many games all by himself and the state of the rest of the roster means that his mistakes will always be magnified.
It is hard to make too big a deal about championship windows when there have been plenty of quarterbacks who remained elite well into their late 30's, but there isn't an unlimited amount of time for Romo to lead the Cowboys to a title.
Is he the kind of player who can lift everyone around him to a higher level than they have achieved in the past? There's only one way to find out, so it is for the best that Romo realizes the extra baggage he needs to carry this season.
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