Tony Romo Injury: Will Cowboys QB Be Labeled Hero or Idiot for Playing Hurt?

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 22, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on September 18, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Cowboys won the game in overtime 27-24. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left his team's Week 2 game against the San Francisco 49ers with a broken rib and (and, as we later learned, a punctured lung), and then returned to lead the team to a 27-24 overtime win.

The game was considered his redemption for ones past when his toughness and leadership came into question time and time again. Indeed, it was an impressive performance, but what is an impressive performance when mitigated by the kind of stupidity that it also displayed?

Yes, neither Romo nor anyone on the Cowboys' staff knew that the quarterback had punctured his lung. Broken ribs hurt enough as it is and restrict one's breathing and speech, so it's understandable that the truth didn't come out until further testing after the game.

Surely, his performance last week was considered heroic by many fans and detractors alike, and it's fair enough to say that what he did was certainly brave. Not many other starting quarterbacks in the NFL would do such a thing, especially in the second week of the season.

However, I think that if he and the Cowboys had known the extent of the injury, Romo would have been less willing to return to the game; in fact, he should have been pulled without question.

Heading into their Week 3 Monday night game against division rival Washington, Romo is still hopeful about his ability to play. This is a risky move, even in a game that could prove to have playoff implications as the season plays out.

A broken rib cannot heal in a week, and the fact that it punctured his lung should have Romo and the Cowboys more worried than they seem currently. Additional injury to that rib or those surrounding it could have a disastrous effect on his lung, puncturing it again or perhaps collapsing it entirely.

Further, a broken rib on its own is extremely painful. To handle the ball, complete passes, feel comfortable with throwing motion and be willing to take hits is a lot to ask a week removed from the injury. At the same time, the Cowboys have an extremely capable (and 100 percent healthy) quarterback behind Romo in John Kitna.

Kitna is the eighth-leading active quarterback in the league, and he is more than able to lead the Cowboys to a home victory over the Rex Grossman-led Redskins this Monday.

Considering that the Cowboys next face the brutal Detroit Lions before entering their bye week and take on the New England Patriots upon exiting it, Romo needs to worry more about his long-term health rather than just Week 3.

Championships aren't won or lost in the third week of the season—and if they are, that says more about a team's late-season performance than anything. The Cowboys need Romo, certainly, but they need him to be healthy first and foremost.

You can't blame Romo for wanting to play, and he's not an idiot for wanting to do his job; however, if the Cowboys let him, you can definitely question their judgment and priorities.

It's Week 3, not Week 13, and seasons can be lost with a single player. Save the playoff-style heroics for when they really count. In December.