Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was forced to retire at the age of 34, due in part to back problems.
Current Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is 34, with back problems.
The connection is easy to make. And that's why Aikman is worried about Romo, who underwent back surgery at the end of the 2013 regular season—his second procedure in less than a year, although the two were unrelated.
"I think it would be a concern of mine if I was with the Cowboys, having back surgery once again and at his age," Aikman said back in December, according to The Dallas Morning News. "It could be a factor going forward as far as his performance."
Wednesday, Aikman doubled down on that warning, despite reports from owner/general manager Jerry Jones, via ESPN.com, that Romo's recovery was ahead of speed.
I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he’s at least afforded more time to get ready. But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.
I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back—everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.
Here's why I'm not as concerned as Aikman is suggesting we should be: While Romo is the same age Aikman was at the end of his career, Aikman took beating after beating over a 12-year career as a starter. In that span, he started 165 games in total.
Romo barely saw the field during his first two-and-a-half seasons in the league, and he was a year older than Aikman coming in. He has started only 108 games over an eight-year span. His career simply isn't as far along as Aikman's. There's more tread on Romo's tires.
|Tony Romo vs. Troy Aikman at age 34|
|Seasons as starter||Starts||Sack %||Starts to come|
|Pro Football Reference|
Plus, there's the whole thing about Aikman not being a doctor and all.
The belief all along has been that Romo will be ready for organized team activities, and positive reports like the one from Jones indicate that'll be the case. But it's not as though this offense is going through a major transformation, so Romo shouldn't be in a rush. He's fortunate for that, as well as the fact the procedure took place right at the very beginning of the offseason.
In New York, Eli Manning wasn't so lucky with his balky left ankle, which was operated on belatedly last week. And unlike the Cowboys, the Giants are implementing a new system under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
So it's not time for Cowboys fans to panic just yet, at least in regard to Romo's short-term future.
However, Aikman's right about the fact the team should be cautious going forward. Romo is the franchise quarterback, and we're not holding out too much hope for Brandon Weeden. If these pesky back problems keep flaring up for Romo, there's a realistic chance he won't play out the entirety of that seven-year contract he signed last offseason.