Tony Romo can’t quite turn his back on the possibility he’ll play again. (AP)

Tony Romo is retired.

Unless he isn’t.

That was the message to be taken from Romo’s comments Tuesday after he was introduced, via a conference call with media members, as the new lead NFL game analyst for CBS.

Romo had several opportunities to say unequivocally he won’t play football again. He didn’t say that. Instead, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys said things such as he’s 99 percent sure he won’t play again. He gave himself a you-never-say-never escape clause.

“I don’t know that the competitive fire ever is gonna go away,” Romo said. “For athletes, that’s gonna be there. And that’s probably something that Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms still fight to this day. I think we all understand there’s a shelf life. But as we learned with Brett Favre, that shelf life can obviously take on a life of its own.”

Romo might play football again. Most likely, he won’t. But either way, he has set things up for a Favre-like avalanche of speculation whenever a team loses a veteran starting quarterback and is in need of help.

Romo, who turns 37 this month, seems to realize how strong the lure can be. He said he didn’t meet with teams during this go-round because he knew that if he did, he’d play. He acknowledged that the Super Bowl-ready Houston Texans topped his prospective free agent shopping list.

“I was just trying to make the best decision possible for me and my family,” Romo said. “Obviously Houston was at the top of the list of teams that I looked at.”

The Cowboys announced Tuesday that they were releasing Romo at his request. That means that if Romo ever does return to the NFL, he is not contractually tied to the Cowboys and he can pick his next team and negotiate a new contract.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Romo said Tuesday. “I went back and forth many times. There were many reasons basically that I felt this was the right decision. It really had nothing to do with the Texans. It had everything to do with CBS. … I really felt as though it was the right decision at this time. I’m really excited about the new challenge ahead. I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly.”

Signing with a team now would have meant enduring an entire offseason of workouts and practices, then training camp and the preseason, just to reach Opening Day. Signing with a team during, say, the preseason or in Week 3 of the regular season could be less taxing.

Will that ever happen? Probably not. But Romo didn’t rule it out.

For now, he says he is focused on excelling as a broadcaster.

“If this wasn’t something that I was excited about or I didn’t think that I really wanted to do, I wouldn’t be making this decision,” he said. “This is a decision that I’ve come to because I’m excited about this craft. I’m excited about trying to be really good at this. I understand the challenges ahead. I also understand that it can be pretty fun trying to attack something and do something at a high level.”