We knew he had back surgery in the offseason. We knew he received two fractures when he was kneed in the spine five weeks ago (and sent back into the game.) But it was only last night that Cowboys QB Tony Romo revealed that he's spent most of this season playing with a broken rib.
"It'll be nice when it's just about the back improving instead of all the other little junk," Romo said, that "other little junk" being the broken rib that would have a normal person laid up for weeks.
Instead, Romo—who said he's not exactly sure in which game he suffered the injury—had his most efficient game of what's been one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Checking down often, and leaning on a typically fantastic performance from DeMarco Murray, Romo completed 21 of 26 attempts for 205 yards and three scores in Dallas's 41-28 win over the Bears, clinching the Cowboys' first winning season since 2009. It was a remarkable turnaround from Thanksgiving Day, when an ineffective Romo was bullied into by the Eagles into throwing a pair of picks.
What changed? In addition to his usual body armor, Romo got a painkiller shot this week, something he didn't do before the Philadelphia game.
"I took a shot this week," Romo said. "I didn't last week in the Eagles game, and that was a poor decision I think.
"It was definitely a difference...It just didn't feel as good. We were probably protecting a bit last week. But this week was different. It felt good."
Romo says his back fractures are healing, and his ribs are feeling better. He's certainly got plenty of experience to put that into context. In 2008, he played with a rib cartilage tear. In 2011, a broken rib and a punctured lung. Last season, it was merely bruised ribs. Bad things happen to Tony Romo's torso, I guess is the pattern that's emerged.
So has the potential narrative for the rest of this season. The Cowboys are in the driver's seat for a wild card berth, largely due to a well-rounded offense that's been enough to make up for any shortcoming on defense (a D that's been, it should be noted, much better than the historically bad projections it was receiving before the season). But the offense is Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray, two undeniably great players with injury histories. Maybe that's unfair—you can't blame anyone for breaking a rib or spraining a knee—but Dallas needs Romo and Murray healthy. They should probably stop running Murray into the ground, but you can't bubble-wrap a quarterback.