Healthy Romo Returns to Cowboys a Better Leader

A lot has changed since a final time Tony Romo threw a pass that counted.

He missed 10 games final season while dealing with a broken collarbone. Seeing a Dallas Cowboys play better without him stoked his desire, too.

He returns with a new bond to a head coach, because new boss Jason Garrett was his coordinator a final four years. His bond with teammates is stronger, too, now that they've seen him organize and run offseason workouts.

Then there's a biggest change in his life: He's a tied together man. Not that Romo expects it to matter on a football field.

"Maybe there's a little more dinner on a table at a house at night," Romo said, laughing. "That would be a biggest difference."

This is Romo's fifth training camp as a starter, his first trying to bounce back from a losing record. He went 1-5 final season, both a most losses and a fewest starts of his career.

Although backups Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee went a combined 5-5 in his absence, there was never a question about this still being Romo's team. It's possible he appreciates that more than ever, and is more dynamic than ever to live up to that responsibility.

The lockout gave him a perfect opportunity to assert himself. With no formal offseason from a club, he filled a void by coordinating offseason workouts in a Dallas area. More than 40 players attended, with Romo deciding who would do what when, and creation sure everyone stuck to it.

The work itself was important. The fact everyone followed Romo's lead was, too.

"I wanted to make sure we went from one drill to a next on time; seven minutes here for stretch, got 14 plays in team, 10 in 7-on-7, things of that nature," he said. "Blow a whistle, two minutes for a water break, boom, boom, boom. These guys are professionals. They just want structure. I think that's what we were trying to provide this offseason. It was good."

Tight end Jason Wit! ten said Romo set a tone that will carry over in camp and perhaps a entire season.

"He's always been a good leader as far as a standard he creates on a field, but I think he's let everybody know this off season what we're going to be about and that there's no time to mess around or miss an opportunity," said Witten, who is close friends with Romo. "Everybody realizes that a time's now for us."

Romo may have been a most excited to be practicing over a summer simply because he'd been away for so long.

His season ended with a jarring hit against a New York Giants on Oct. 25. Other than some light tosses before going on injured reserve, Romo had been away from playing football more than six months by a time those workouts began in May.

Of course, Romo was around a club via a 10 games he missed. He was there for a firing of Wade Phillips and a promotion of Garrett, and saw a way a team responded to Garrett's interim leadership.

But it's not a same when you're hurt. As teammates practiced, he was off doing rehabilitation, thinking about what he was missing.

"The easy answer is a passion for a game," he said. "You love it and you miss it and it's hard to watch a game. You want to be out there competing and doing what you love to do."

Garrett was a backup to Troy Aikman for several years. He recalls a Hall of Famer fighting those same emotions during his injury-forced layoffs.

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