Defining Romo's 'Peyton Manning time'

IRVING, Texas -- Even Peyton Manning isn't quite sure how to define "Peyton Manning time."

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones invoked the now famous phrase after signing Tony Romo to a six-year extension worth $108 million that included $55 million in guaranteed money. Part of the deal was for Romo to be more involved in the offense, all the way up to the level of the Denver Broncos' quarterback.

"Look, every quarterback that is starting in this league multiple years puts in time," Manning said on a conference call this week. "You just don't keep your starting job ... I feel like I do what I need to do to get ready to play. But any quarterback who is a starter year after year, I promise you they're putting the work in in the facility on their own. Otherwise, it shows up and you lose your job."

When Jones made the comment it was seen by Romo's detractors as evidence the quarterback did not invest himself fully in the process. It let those who wondered whether he played too much golf or basketball or soccer or whatever run wild.

So how has Peyton Manning time manifested itself so far?

In the offseason, Romo was involved in the breakdown of the offense with the coaching staff, but he was also unable to practice because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back, so he had nothing but time.

In training camp he was with the coaches so much that teammates jokingly called him "Coach."

During the season, Romo has been involved in the Tuesday game-plan meetings into the night with the coaches.

But it's not entirely new either. What is new is Romo's ideas have more weight.

The Cowboys do not have a time clock for Romo, so the time each week varies. If he is familiar with the opponent or the defensive coordinator that week the meeting time might be shorter. If he is facing an unfamiliar foe, like Denver, or coordinator, then the meetings might be longer.

"I don't know that it's appreciably different but the idea that we are really, as a team, trying to emphasize that and ... empower him to do that more and more, we think that is a good thing, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "You want your quarterback to be invested in what you are doing. You want him to like the plays that are in the plan. You want him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go play his best football."

Romo spent the offseason studying the offenses run by Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees and worked to incorporate some of that into what the Cowboys have done with Garrett and do now with coordinator Bill Callahan.

"One of the great traits, if you watch some of the Broncos' stuff, they do a great job of being aggressive and being simple," Romo said.

Sunday's game against Manning will be Romo's 98th career start. Now in his 10th season and seventh as a full-time starter, Romo has seen everything a defense can throw at him. Four years ago, he might not have been ready for such a big role in putting the plan together.

"I think you grow into it a little bit," Romo said. "When you're young, you haven't experienced and you haven't seen enough to understand exactly what people are trying to do philosophy-wise against you. You have a lot of memory. I can remember a play from '07 the way a coordinator attacked me or this team so when I see them again, you're able to have a recollection of what worked and what didn't. I think it can be beneficial to you and as a team to call upon those at different times throughout the season."

Garrett sees the empowerment helping the offense so far.

"I think he is comfortable running the offense," Garrett said. "He has made good decisions. He has been efficient and he is playing good football."