IRVING, Texas -- While Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was in the hospital having back surgery, his teammates dealt with something that's been known all week: The franchise quarterback won't play in the win-or-go-home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
"I feel terrible," backup quarterback Jon Kitna said after Friday's practice. "He's put this team on his back."
The news of Romo's pending season-ending back injury was revealed on Monday on ESPN. But Cowboys officials wouldn't confirm how serious the injury was. Romo's teammates had held out hope he would return, despite the reality he wouldn't.
Romo tried several treatments this week, including an epidural the day after the Washington game. But nothing worked, so the Cowboys and Romo came to terms of season-ending surgery late Thursday afternoon.
"I knew after the game he was in pain, so it's obviously tough," said tight end Jason Witten, who is Romo's best friend on the team, "For me, personally, you share a commitment like that with somebody for over a decade, you pour a lot into it. For him to put our team in this situation, he would give everything to be there. But this is pro football and these things come up and we need him to get healthy for next season, and we have a lot of confidence in Kyle [Orton] and everything he stands for and what he's done over the course of his time here in Dallas."
Orton replaces Romo in the starting lineup and Kitna becomes the No. 2 quarterback for the Eagles game.
The Cowboys need a victory to seal the NFC East title and possibly a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the playoffs. If the Cowboys lose, they will do so without not only Romo but starting middle linebacker Sean Lee (sprained neck).
"We prepared good this week, especially today," wide receiver Dez Bryant said. "We're going to lay it all on the line and we're going to win this one for Tony."