Coming Off Bye, Cowboys Hope Health Is Enough to Salvage Season

(By Ronald Martinez -- Getty Images)
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By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The quality of the football played by the Dallas Cowboys this season has ranged from terrific to pitiable. But the one constant about them is that they have been interesting to watch at every point along the way.

And now, as they welcome back quarterback Tony Romo and prepare to try to salvage their season beginning with Sunday night's game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, they are more intriguing than ever.

The Cowboys began the season as a popular Super Bowl pick even though they play in the same division as the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. They looked like the league's most dominant team while winning their first three games, resembling the NFL's possible answer to last year's New England Patriots. Romo appeared capable of filling the glamour void left league-wide when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opening game.

But things have come undone from there -- so much so that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as he surveyed the scene in his team's locker room following its most recent game, was fielding questions from reporters about readjusting his expectations for the season.

"If you give me the playoffs tonight," Jones said then, "I'll take it and not worry about winning the division."

That was nine days ago at Giants Stadium. The Cowboys just had been overwhelmed by the Giants, 35-14, to drop to 5-4. It was their fourth loss in six games, and their second defeat in three games without the injured Romo.

The Cowboys had a bye this past weekend and now Romo is expected to return from his absence from the lineup caused by a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. Romo practiced last week and again yesterday and, barring a setback, is penciled in to start against the Redskins.

"I think Romo is better and better," Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips said at his news conference yesterday at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters. "I mean, last week he was okay. Today he was a lot better, I think. He had more zip on the ball. I think he felt more comfortable. . . . So it's looking better and better for him as far as getting back to where he was."

Jones acknowledged that Romo must make up for lost time, however.

"He can't be as effective as he would have been if he'd played straight through," Jones said after the Giants game. "That's a challenge. But if things go right for us, we'll win some games."

Cornerback Terence Newman, rookie tailback Felix Jones and guard Kyle Kosier also are being counted on to return this week from injuries. Of that group, only Jones didn't participate in yesterday's practice. Will it be enough? The Cowboys can only hope so.

"It's gonna be tough, but I think we're gonna have some players coming back," Phillips said after the Giants game. "We'll be healthier than we've been. . . . It's not all the quarterback, obviously . . . [but] we'll score more points and I think we'll move the ball better. We haven't done that."

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