FORT WORTH, Texas -- Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach was "disappointed" for quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys that Romo was injured but expressed confidence that backup Kyle Orton can be effective in Romo's absence.
"He is the strength of Dallas. He gives us hope. Losing him is definitely a shame," Staubach said about Romo, who had back surgery on Friday morning. Staubach was in Fort Worth to speak at the Armed Forces Bowl kickoff luncheon. Staubach's alma mater, Navy, faces Middle Tennessee State on Monday.
Staubach went on to praise Orton, saying the backup "has a great arm" and "gets things done."
Orton will get his first start since 2011 with Romo out for the rest of the year.
"He can play football," Staubach said. "He's had some good days and bad days, but a lot of good days. I'm hoping that this Sunday night is one of his good days. He's extremely capable, especially with our offense with Dez Bryant and [Jason] Witten and DeMarco [Murray]. He's got some ammunition around him.
"I think our offensive line will be critical. They've done a good job this year. They need to do an outstanding job with Kyle in the pocket. He will be extremely effective if he has the time."
Staubach joked that he called Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and told him he wanted to back up Orton on Sunday.
"It was between me and [Jon] Kitna," Staubach said, chuckling. "I lost to Kitna. It was close, though."
Staubach has kept in communication with Romo throughout the years and admits he has plenty of admiration for him.
"I'm a big Romo fan, so I feel bad for Tony," said Staubach, who 50 seasons ago won the Heisman Trophy while leading Navy to the Cotton Bowl. "He's a tough son-of-a-gun, though. He was hurt in that game against the Redskins. That back had to be a real problem for him, yet he gutted it out and we at least have a shot at winning the East. I wish he was at quarterback, but I really feel with our offense that if Kyle gets time in the pocket, he'll be effective."
Romo was injured during last week's game and continued to play, eventually leading the Cowboys on a game-winning drive despite pain in his right leg.
The injury means Romo won't get a chance to improve upon his 0-3 mark in regular-season finales with the NFC East at stake. Dallas and Philadelphia will play for the division title Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Staubach hopes Romo recovers quickly and has many productive years left as the Cowboys' quarterback.
"I really see the things he can do out on the field and the plays he makes," Staubach said. "He isn't as lucky as I was to have the full complement of players around. It's different. It's free agency. It's a different league."