Source: Protective vest for Tony Romo

Updated: September 22, 2011, 2:30 PM ET
By Ed Werder | ESPNDallas.com

Tony Romo's determination to do whatever possible to avoid missing a game with his fractured rib is evident as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback spent Wednesday being measured for a protective vest, according to a source.

The vest is manufactured by the same equipment company that created a similar device for Michael Vick last season when the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback suffered damaged rib cartilage.

Romo is attempting to play through the injury to compete against the same opponent that inflicted Vick's injury -- the Washington Redskins.

According to a source, the Cowboys equipment staff this week contacted Unequal Technologies of Kennett Square, Penn., which sent representatives to the team's Valley Ranch headquarters to fit Romo for a lightweight, flexible vest that he could wear in Dallas' home opener against the Redskins. The source said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who is suffering from bruised ribs, was also measured for a vest like the one that Vick wore for much of last season. Other Dallas players with injuries are experimenting with some of the company's other equipment options.

Romo fractured a rib and suffered a small puncture of his lung on the third play of the Cowboys' comeback victory Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Romo threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns.

Vick regularly wears equipment produced by Unequal Technologies after signing an endorsement contract with the company, the first after his arrest and imprisonment following a conviction on dogfighting charges.

Unequal Technologies CEO Rob Vito said company representatives are scheduled to meet with Vick and Philadelphia equipment and training staff members Friday to determine how the quarterback's helmet might be modified. Vick suffered a concussion last Sunday and is attempting to play against the New York Giants this week.

Vito said the high-tech equipment being designed for Romo includes Kevlar -- which the military and police forces use in bullet-proof vests and helmets -- and is constructed of a multilayer composite that is so lightweight that it could be removed and balled up into the fist of whomever is wearing it.

"Romo had a very serious injury and the Cowboys started asking around about what we had done for Michael Vick and for the Steelers in the Super Bowl,'' Vito said. "What we have is military-grade equipment adopted to sports. If it can stop a bullet, it can stop a blitz.''

Already there are indications that, if Romo plays, the Redskins will attempt to knock the Cowboys quarterback out of the game as they did Vick in Week 4 last season.

During a conference call with Dallas media Wednesday morning, Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo was asked if he would be targeting Romo's ribs on Monday night.

"Obviously you can think of it like that," said Orakpo. "If somebody gets injured you want to go after the injury. But we're going to just play our game. We're going to try to get Romo down when we can. We're not going to just target the ribs and forget about trying to get the ball out or forget about trying to get him down and just hit his ribs. Nah, we're going to go the best we can to get him down and get off the field."

Vito said that his company's equipment has proven capable of stopping a 92 mph fastball in an eighth of an inch and can absorb the impact from a 95 mph slapshot with a quarter-inch of padding.

He said company representatives counted Vick taking eight direct hits in the chest without his ribs being reinjured when he wore the equipment for the first time while scoring 59 points in a Monday night game. After that game, Vick said, "Unequal made me feel invincible.''

Vick later had the company use its technology to modify his thigh pads to protect an injured quadriceps. He took five direct hits and reported not to have felt pain from any of them. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore a piece of equipment the company devised to protect a quadriceps injury during the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

Romo was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for a performance that left coach Jason Garrett comparing the quarterback's toughness with that often demonstrated by Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

"They have a lot of similar traits that way,'' Garrett said. "They're great competitors -- incredibly tough physically, incredibly tough mentally. There's not a lot of conversation that goes on with either one of them. It's just, 'I'm playing.' And I saw that a lot with Troy and certainly I've seen that a lot with Tony the last few years.''

Ed Werder covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Information from ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon was used in this report.

Ed Werder

ESPN NFL Insider

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