IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo came into the season with Super Bowl dreams.
He casually talked about it while accepting an award at a banquet last spring. He talked about it during training camp. Even after breaking his collarbone on Sept. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles, he thought about it.
He was not talking about the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He was talking about Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.
And now his season is over as a result of the hit he took in Thursday’s 33-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
For the second time this season, Romo suffered a broken left collarbone. A CT scan revealed a small crack in the bone in the healed portion of the distal fracture he suffered two months ago.
There will be no fairy-tale ending this season for Romo.
The next time we see him will be in the spring for organized team activities. Maybe by then the Cowboys will have drafted his potential successor in the first few rounds of the draft, or will have gone after a free-agent backup not on the final legs of a long career, but an ascending player with potential.
In 2010, Romo missed 10 games with a broken left collarbone. He had back surgery before the 2013 season and a second operation at the end of the season to repair a bulging disk. He missed one game in 2014 with two transverse process fractures in his back.
He will miss 12 games this season because of the collarbone.
What drives players from the game is not the desire to keep playing. It’s the physical ailments and the grind that it takes to continue to play at a high level.
Romo loves the grind. He loves the preparation. He loves looking for the tiniest of edges that can make his quick release even quicker.
He will not have surgery and the collarbone will heal in time.
Time is all he has now, and there is a wonder of how much time he has left.
Romo will enter his 14th season next year. He turns 36 next April.
He holds Cowboys records for passing yards and touchdown passes. Only Troy Aikman has more attempts, completions and starts in team history. Romo has won 78 games. Only Aikman (94) and Roger Staubach (85) have more.
Long ago, Romo accepted the fact that the only thing that matters is Super Bowl wins.
In the spring, he thought it was all coming together with the Cowboys coming off a 12-4 record, a productive draft and then a decent free-agent haul. But Dez Bryant suffered a broken foot in the season opener and Romo went down in the second game.
Nothing has gone to plan for the Cowboys this campaign.
Their 0-7 record without Romo this season shows just how dependent they are on him. He can cover up the sins of others, players and coaches.
In the last year-plus, he has played better than he has ever played because his mental ability matched his physical ability, even with the back surgeries and collarbone injuries.
He was doubted when he came into the league in 2003 as an undrafted free agent and has surpassed any plausible expectations.
And he will be doubted again as he returns from this injury.
History is against Romo now.
It was against him in 2003 as well.