Injury To Sean Lee Carries Lesson That Cowboys Won’t Learn
“There’s no question in my mind, not only am I going to be able to make it through 16 games, I’ll make it through another five years.”
That the quarterback of the once-mighty Dallas Cowboys should have uttered such an absurdity for public hearing was disturbing. America may not think highly of Tony Romo’s instincts as a fourth quarter general, but we have never been given reason to doubt him as a football intellectual.
Jerry Jones, now, is an entirely different matter. Jerry could say what Romo did without thinking twice. In fact, he had said as much just days previously, only the world didn’t take notice. Such is the fate of an individual renowned for speaking out of turn.
But Romo, for all of his patented football sins, was never a quarterback at odds with reality. Not, that is, until he took a $108 million drink from Jerry’s cooler last spring in the form of a six-year contract. With job security obtained, Romo now has no qualms about propounding the wonderful effects of Jerry’s Kool-Aid.
And such was his role on “The Ben & Skin Show” last week when he proclaimed himself physically fit so as to make Clark Kent jealous. Nothing, Romo believes, will keep him from playing through the 2018 season.
If this were a detective novel Romo would automatically be labeled as “fey,” a player positively and adamantly delusional. Five years is a long time in the NFL to be guaranteeing your own wealth, health, and prosperity. Too long.
Romo may feel in better health and fitness now than he did at any point of last season when back surgery prevented him from working out at all during the spring, but that doesn’t give him reason to expect it to last forever. He may want to play another five years and fill out the length of his contract, but that doesn’t mean he will.
Fairy tale endings in professional football are as rare as playoff berths are in Dallas these days. But that’s what Romo and the Cowboys are putting their trust in these days.
Romo’s confident air sounded empty and hollow in the wake of linebacker Sean Lee’s season-ending injury earlier this week. Lee, easily the Cowboys’ MVP on defense, slipped and fell under a block from rookie guard Zack Martin in the team’s first organized practice of the spring only to come up lame with a torn ACL. Lee won’t step onto a playing field until next spring…if ever.
The Cowboys knew what they were getting when they drafted Lee in the second round of the 2010 draft. The classic definition of an injury prone player, Lee had yet to complete a full season without an ailment during his first four years in the NFL.
In fact, Lee hasn’t played a complete season since 2007 when he was a sophomore at Penn State.
His injury leaves a gaping hole at the linebacker level, yes, but also poses as a stark reminder of the unknown factor that envelops each and every NFL player.
Determination alone is as nothing against the powers of a freak injury. Tomorrow is as uncertain as the wind.
Romo can’t be considered as fragile as Lee, but he has experienced an adequate amount of bumps and bruises during his playing days. He missed ten games in 2010 due to a clavicle injury, suffered broken ribs in Week 2 of the following season which, miraculously, only forced him to sit out a quarter, and has since endured two off-season back operations.
Overall, Romo has proven to be a quick healer, but that won’t always be the case. Already 34 years of age, recovery time for his body will only grow slower as the months and years progress. And it should be noted that older players are typically more prone to injury, so expecting Romo to play another five years virtually ailment-free seems to be asking for too much from the football gods.
Now, for the sake of fairness, Romo’s words aren’t as disturbing as they would have been in another city. In every other organization, the veteran franchise quarterback just happens to be the tone setter within the locker room. Romo carries no such burden in Dallas. Jerry, as we all know by now, is the star of every localized verbal campaign, above head coach, quarterback, and defensive captain.
The current state of the Cowboys is quickly summed up when realizing that Romo’s over-zealous anticipation was nothing more than a reinforcement of what the Cowboys owner told him earlier this off-season. Jones is banking on a healthy Romo. There is no recourse, and no backup plan in place. This is Jerry’s latest campaign. This is his long-term vision.
The big picture that has so long eluded Jones came to him on Draft Day. No, Jerry wasn’t thinking short-term when he passed on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round. Rather, he had the Cowboys’ road mapped out five years into a glorious future which included Romo standing unscathed in the pocket and retiring as a folk-hero who benefited from outstanding patience from the front-office.
Jerry has chosen to ignore Romo’s need for back operations each of the past two years.
Jones doesn’t care that Romo has the same doctor as Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison, whose recent rash of back problems has the former All Star’s career in jeopardy.
Jones can’t even discern the lesson from this past week, when one slip on the practice field from his star linebacker ended a season. Maybe even a career.
All Jones can see is his most recent blueprint for success, one that just so happens to be as fragile and inane as many of his plans before.