IRVING, Texas – Any hope the Dallas Cowboys had of getting Tony Romo on the field for Sunday’s winner-take-all game for the NFC East title was lost Friday morning when the 33-year-old quarterback had back surgery.
The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve.
Romo suffered a herniated disk in a 24-23 victory over Washington on Sunday, and while sources indicated all week the surgery was necessary and he was likely out for the showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys waited to see if daily treatment — as well as an epidural steroid injection to reduce inflammation — would alleviate the discomfort and allow him to get on the field.
But Romo’s back was not getting better after the team exhausted all options on treatment and decided late Thursday to have Romo undergo surgery, coach Jason Garrett said.
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Kyle Orton will start at quarterback against the Eagles, with newly signed Jon Kitna serving as his backup.
Ex-Seahawk Kitna, 41, is football coach and a math teacher at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. Kitna was a Cowboy from 2009 through the 2011 season; he played in 13 games for Dallas and was 4-5 as a starter.
Orton, 31, has taken all the first-team snaps in practice this week. The Cowboys already were preparing as if Romo was not going to play.
Orton “is certainly a great guy. He’s been doing this for a long time and has handled it well the past couple of days,” Garrett said.
Orton is 35-34 in his career as a starter but has played in a mere three games — all in mop-up duty — since Dallas signed him before the 2012 season. He has thrown a total of 15 passes the last two years.
Garrett said, “We spent the week exhausting all options in regards to Tony’s situation — treatment, rehab, all the different things, consulted a lot of different people on this. We just felt like as we discussed it, as yesterday wore on, this was the best decision for him and for the organization moving forward, and we felt like it was better to have this done sooner rather than later.”
Garrett said he talked to Romo and the quarterback was “devastated” by the fact his season is over.
“He puts a lot into this,” Garrett said.
There is no question the Cowboys are devastated as well, considering their hopes for this season and the decision last spring to give Romo a $108 million contract extension.
Owner Jerry Jones said the decision for Romo to have surgery this week was in the best interest for all. Jones said he expects Romo on the field for organized team activities in May.
“It was apparent (Thursday) that he was not responding. We were advised by many people that the quicker you relieve the discomfort, the quicker the long-term recovery,” Jones said on his radio show. “My expectation is that one of the pluses for having had it done as early as this morning is that it would really contribute to him being able to get right there when it comes time for the team to be in OTAs and do the preparation, the beginning of the preparation for next year.”