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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Tony Romo more mature, patient

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

I heard a different side of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on Thursday morning.

He went on the radio, at the last moment, with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Ben and Skin Show" and talked about fatherhood and his quest to win a Super Bowl -- and how he won't be satisfied until he does.

He talked with admiration about the man who signs the checks at Valley Ranch, owner Jerry Jones.

It was good to hear Romo say these things.

Tony Romo
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo understands that an 8-8 season with no playoff appearance in unacceptable.

It told me Romo has grown up a little bit.

He's no longer the quarterback who will almost dismiss a tough loss, as was the case when he got beat by the Philadelphia Eagles to end the 2008 season.

He's a different person. Mature, patient and reflective.

Fatherhood does that to you.

"It's one of those things," Romo said. "For me, it just feels like you can tell there's a God. It just really shows you all the complexities of it. There's such a sense of responsibility that it just overwhelms you."

It was bound to happen at some point. Some of us are still acting like teenagers at times and we're in our 40s.

Romo, 31, can act like a teenager with his infant son but a man around his team. Yes, the Cowboys are his team now.

It has to be that way whether you like it or not. Romo isn't going anywhere. He's a top-10 quarterback, has the support of the owner and his son, teammates and peers.

This is a different Romo than the one I met in 2006.

That Romo was just trying to figure out fame. He was trying to figure out how to handle Terrell Owens. He was trying to beat defenses and please Bill Parcells.

Now, teammates have to please him. Tight end and close friend Jason Witten gets on him from time to time. Miles Austin, too. Jason Garrett, Stephen McGee and Wade Wilson, as well.

DeMarcus Ware. Add him, too.

Romo has to command the locker room. He doesn't need to look over his shoulder because Kyle Orton and McGee are not coming in. The Cowboys have basically dismissed drafting a quarterback. Despite having two years left on his contract, an extension might come into focus.

Back in 2006, I remember Romo talking to the beat writers prior to his first start joking that he didn't even have a girlfriend.

Romo has much more than that now. He's got a wife, a child, a golf career when he retires and a city desperate for a Super Bowl title.

Romo, I think, finally gets it. He understands an 8-8 season with no playoff appearance is unacceptable. He understands no matter how well he plays, wins and losses are what matter.

Romo was asked how he wants to be remembered and gave the best answer possible: "From a football perspective, it's me being as good as I can be. And when I say that, I'd like to think that the bar is pretty high and I can get to a level that's very high.' "

Sept. 5 at MetLife Stadium against the Giants, Romo gets another shot at it.

Time for the mail:

Q: What's up, Calvin? What can we expect from Bruce Carter this year? It seemed like many analysts and experts liked the second-round pick last year. Just curious as to what you think he could potentially be capable of this year for the 'Boys? Also, what is your gut feeling about the first-round selection for the Cowboys? -- Dan (Bronx, N.Y.)

A: Carter was recovering from knee surgery, so the Cowboys didn't expect much out of him last year. However, they expect him to compete for a starting spot alongside Sean Lee at inside linebacker this year. Carter will have some competition from Dan Connor, who was acquired in free agency. Carter is athletic, quick and could be good as a pass-rusher. My gut feeling for the first round is that the Cowboys will pick Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama. He fills a big need in the secondary and he'll have two veteran safeties, Gerald Sensabaugh and Brodney Pool, to learn from.

Q: Hey, do you think that the Cowboys will beat the Eagles this year? -- James Nelson (Charlottesville, Va.)

A: It all depends on when they play. The Eagles had more athletic players than the Cowboys last season and it showed on the scoreboard. First meeting, Eagles, 34-7. Second meeting, Eagles, 20-7. Not sure if the Cowboys have someone in the secondary who can contain their receivers. Michael Vick is a special player the Cowboys haven't been able to control yet. I do think Brandon Carr and Mike Jenkins make for a good duo in the secondary along with Orlando Scandrick in the slot. If DeMarcus Ware gets help with the pass rush, I think things will be better.

Q: The Tampa Bay Bucs just released safety Tanard Jackson after he failed a physical due to a shoulder injury. Please check this guy out if you haven't already. He's a hard-hitting, playmaking safety the Cowboys have been searching for for a long time. He has had some off-the-field issues in the past, but the kid is only 26 and we have both seen the Cowboys take chances on guys before with off-the-field issues. They could sign him, let him get healthy, and give him a one- year deal to prove himself. He's better than any safety the Cowboys have now. Career stats: 239 tackles, six forced fumbles and 10 interceptions in four years with suspensions included. Mark Gaither -- (Fort Washington, Md.)

A: Mark, are you his agent or something? The Cowboys are not going to sign Mr. Jackson. He has shoulder issues. The Cowboys will focus on the draft to get their safety.

Q: I really like what the Cowboys have done in free agency. Very active and filled some voids, on paper, anyway. However, I'm still concerned about the pass rush and the defensive line. When can we see them making an effort to upgrade the defensive line? -- Will Sherman (Elmira, N.Y.)

A: It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys draft a defensive lineman. They brought in Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox for a visit, but he might be off the board when the Cowboys get to No. 14. Dontari Poe, from Memphis, didn't visit Valley Ranch, and if you're not among the pre-draft visits, the Cowboys might not draft you. Ware is the lone exception. I'm still leaning on the Cowboys getting a safety in the first round, followed by an offensive lineman in the second round. The Cowboys have some young talent along the offensive line in Sean Lissemore, Josh Brent and Clifton Geathers. Former Cowboys lineman Leon Lett did wonders with Geathers' skills. Geathers could be someone to watch in 2012.

Q: What would you say to converting Felix Jones to a slot receiver? He's got great skills in the open field and would provide a great distraction because of his quickness and downfield speed. I'm not saying he shouldn't line up in the backfield again, but he's definitely got soft hands that could be put to some use. -- Tod (Aledo, Texas)

A: Let me be careful about what I say regarding Felix Jones. He's not a wide receiver. He's a running back. The Cowboys value Jones, but he's in the final year of his contract and should be motivated to produce in 2012. I don't think Jones is athletic enough to line up as a slot receiver. I should note the first time he played in an NFL game, he lined up at wide receiver. But he's better suited as a player who can beat you if he gets space, and that's on pitches and swing passes. He's a talented player but might need a fresh start elsewhere.

Q: Calvin, earlier you stated that Tony Romo was the least of the Cowboys' problems. My question to you is how many times do the Cowboys continue to give Romo passes for his poor play and decision making, especially late in the season? Romo hasn't seen a decent season since he ran T.O. out of town nor has the offense been as consistent. You say Romo is a top quarterback but he has yet to show a glimmer of being a top quarterback in the postseason when it matters most. Romo, unless he wins a Super Bowl, will have the same Cowboys' legacy as Danny White. He will get you to the mountaintop but never to the Promised Land! -- Mel Hall (Ahoskie, N.C.)

A: Romo is a solid quarterback. Yes, he needs to emerge as a better one late in the season and push the Cowboys to a deep playoff run. However, who would you rather have as a quarterback? Mark Sanchez? Tim Tebow? Alex Smith? Donovan McNabb? Who? Wait. Rex Grossman? That's who you want, right? Romo is good. Should he be compared to Danny White? Yes. Should he be compared to Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman? No. Let's be honest, Romo is the least of the Cowboys' problems.

Q: I'm sure that I've asked this before, since it appears, the Cowboys are in need of a backup tight end. Is it in the realm of possibility that Dallas Clark might have something left in the tank and could help at a reasonable price? -- Ric D. (Rogers, Ark.)

A: I wouldn't mind a veteran tight end on the roster, especially if he's a good blocker. The Cowboys lost their best blocking tight end in Martellus Bennett, who is now with the New York Giants. John Phillips moves up the depth chart this season with Bennett gone. Phillips played last season after having knee surgery and it was clear he wasn't himself. But the franchise was impressed with his development prior to him tearing his ACL. The Cowboys should find a No. 3 tight end in the late stages of the draft or an undrafted free agent. A veteran would be nice, but there's nothing wrong with youth.