Tony Romo worried about Jason Witten the person

Next Level: Cowboys Connection (0:21)

Next Level looks at the connection between Tony Romo and Jason Witten. (0:21)

OXNARD, Calif. – Tony Romo understands the importance of Jason Witten to him and the Cowboys offense, but he is more worried about his friend’s health than when he returns to football.

“Jason loves football as much as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Romo said after Wednesday’s practice. “I can count the number of practices on one hand he hasn’t been out there since I’ve been playing. I know this is going to be tough on him. At the same time, he’s a great teammate. He’s going to do everything he can to get back for our first game. But his well being is the first and foremost thing I think about. We want to make sure he does everything right to make sure that he’s healthy. When he comes back, it will make everyone’s job a lot easier. We look forward to that.”

Romo played with a punctured lung and fractured rib for at least six weeks last season. He has overcome back and hand injuries as well, but Witten’s slightly lacerated spleen is “a serious thing.”

“I know Jason is down because he hates missing anything football related and that is part of his greatness,” Romo said. “We’re lucky to have a guy like him. He’s an example for everybody. These young guys can watch him go about his business day in and day out and they can improve tremendously just through osmosis.

“He’ll be here with us fighting. When he gets back on the field, his ability we’ll feel.”

Linebacker Sean Lee said it was strange to not see Witten at practice. The seven-time Pro Bowl tight end spent a little time at the morning walkthrough but was not on the field in the afternoon. He has been told to limit his movement as the injury heals and will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days.

“He’s the guy that sets the pace for us on and off the field and he’s an unbelievable player and unbelievable leader,” Lee said. “We’re going to have to rally to fulfill those shoes. It’s going to be tough. I think we did a good job today. I think everybody’s still practicing hard, but we’ve got to continue that high intensity because he’s the guy that sets the pace. Everybody else is going to have to step up.”