5 Wonders: Keeping Tony Romo clean

IRVING, Texas – The first regular-season game is upon us and the first regular-season offering of Five Wonders is here as well.

Just like you can’t wait for kickoff Wednesday, you can’t wait for the Wonders, so on to them:

** Clearly the Cowboys have to keep Tony Romo something close to clean to have a chance, and in big games that has not been easy. The Giants sacked Romo six times in last season’s winner-take-all contest. In the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs, Minnesota sacked Romo six times. In the winner-take-all 2008 season finale at Philadelphia, he was sacked only three times but was hurried into most of his throws, leading to just 183 passing yards. I wonder what kind of magic offensive coordinator Bill Callahan can work with an offensive line that will have had five practices together.

** As the Cowboys continue to ponder Jason Witten’s availability for Wednesday’s game because of a spleen injury, I wonder how much playing in Week 2 at Seattle will be a benefit. Clearly having more time to recover from this injury will help, but does the chance of him injuring his spleen go down to zero percent by waiting 11 days for the Seahawks game? Maybe it does. But I’d wait until the spleen is 100 percent recovered and not risk it and if it means holding Witten out of the first two games, so be it. Now that’s easy for me to say and not so easy for the Cowboys or Witten, but the long term has to be at the forefront of this decision and I’m not talking only about 2012 but Witten’s post-football life, whenever that might begin.

** I wonder just how effective Miles Austin can be after missing the four preseason games and all but a week of training camp because of a hamstring strain. He has had a handful of practices to get ready for the New York Giants and said he’ll be ready to go. What else would he say? But the Cowboys have put a pitch count of sorts on him in practice to make sure he doesn’t stress his legs before the game starts. I asked Romo if he is concerned about picking up where he has left off with Austin in the past because of the receiver’s lack of preseason work, and Romo pointed back to 2011. Against the New York Jets in the same stadium, Austin caught five passes for 90 yards in a touchdown in the season opener. So clearly Romo isn’t wondering about Austin’s productivity.

** I wonder how long it might take Ryan Cook to become the Cowboys' starting center. Phil Costa’s low back strain is something that might linger although he has returned to practice and is a tough guy. But Cook is three inches taller and 12 pounds heavier than Costa. The fact that the Cowboys added a year to Cook’s contract after the trade from Miami tells me that they want some protection for 2013 too. Costa is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, and to keep his rights the Cowboys will have to tender him a deal in the $1.5 million range. Cook is scheduled to make $1.1 million in 2013.

** I wonder just how much the Cowboys will miss Jay Ratliff against the Giants. In 2009, Ratliff had 11 tackles and three tackles for loss against the Giants. In the four games against the Giants since, he has had 11 tackles and just one tackle for loss. Like Witten, there’s no need to rush Ratliff back from his high ankle sprain and have it be an issue for the whole season. But as much as Ratliff has been named to the Pro Bowl, the last couple of seasons he just has not produced the same as he did a few years ago. Are the Cowboys a better defense with him? Absolutely. But they have played almost all of training camp and the preseason without him, so Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent should not be afraid of the spotlight.