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Cowboys left hoping Tony Romo's body as willing as his mind

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Garrett: We're confident Romo will be back (0:39)

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reveals that quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken bone in his back Thursday against the Seahawks but says it's unrelated to previous injuries and he is confident Romo will be back on the field this season. (0:39)

FRISCO, Texas -- Throughout the offseason, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked how much longer he wanted to play.

His answer almost always changed.

He said 4 to 5 years. He said 5 to 6 years. He even said another eight years when he was hosting his football camp back in Burlington, Wisconsin.

There was no doubt Romo was feeling as good as he has felt since undergoing two back surgeries in 2013. He had surgery in March on his collarbone, but he participated in every part of the offseason program, not missing an organized team activity or minicamp practice. Away from football, he was more active as well, playing tennis and basketball.

That changed this past Thursday when he suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra after getting hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril.

According to a source, Romo will need six to 10 weeks to recover, but the Cowboys are not putting a time frame on when he will be able to return to the field.

Romo will play again this season, and a source said he is not contemplating retirement at all, despite the injuries that have popped up the past few years.

This will be the fourth straight year Romo has missed games.

Despite entering his 14th season and turning 36 in the offseason, the Cowboys have maintained Romo is younger than his calendar years suggest because he did not play at all in his first three seasons.

But he must add the compression fracture to a left collarbone that has been broken three times (2010, 2015), a back that required the removal of a cyst (2013) and a repair of a ruptured disk (2013). He has played through a broken rib and punctured lung (2011). He played with torn rib cartilage in 2014.

Romo’s mind is willing, but is his body able?

"That's a fair question," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Obviously questions are popping up with him. We're aware of that. He's aware of that. You also would like to think he's just having some bad luck and this thing will right itself at some point. Anybody would have to take a look at the point that he's starting to have some injuries.”

Romo is signed through 2019. He is set to make $8.5 million this year and count $20.835 million against the cap. He has base salaries of $14 million, $19.5 million and $20.5 million remaining.

Jones, however, made it clear that the Cowboys are not ready to walk away from Romo.

“We’re supportive of him,” Jones said. “Our focus is to get him healthy as soon as possible.”

For the first time since Romo became the starting quarterback in 2007, the Cowboys seriously considered a future without him. Leading up to the draft, the Cowboys worked out all of the top quarterbacks: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch.

They nearly traded back into the first round to select Lynch, but opted not to part with their second- and third-round picks. After the draft, owner and general manager Jerry Jones lamented not going harder for Lynch. It wasn’t the same level of regret Jones professed when the Cowboys passed on Johnny Manziel in 2014, but it was noteworthy nonetheless.

They also contemplated a trade up for Connor Cook, but ended up selecting Dak Prescott in the fourth round.

And now they are looking at Prescott as their starter when the season begins Sept. 11 against the New York Giants and potentially a few more weeks after that.

It didn’t take the Cowboys forever to find Troy Aikman’s successor. It just seemed that way. They started Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson. They traded for Drew Henson, who was the last rookie quarterback to start a game for the Cowboys in 2004. They signed veterans like Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.

On Oct. 29, 2006, Romo made his first career start, and the Cowboys finally had their quarterback. There have been great moments and agonizing moments. The Cowboys have won just two playoff games with Romo, but they would not have sniffed the possibility of making the playoffs without him in those other years.

It seems as if eulogies are starting to be written for Romo. The Cowboys aren’t writing them. Those close to Romo aren’t, either.

Stephen Jones spoke with Romo many times over the past two days.

“He’s driven for this not to be like last year,” Jones said. “He’s certainly not deterred, and he really feels like it’s going to be different, but he can get through this and that he also feels very confident that our team can win football games without him while he’s not here. He’s driven to help Dak win football games for us so that when he gets back that we have a great chance to have a great season, get in the tournament and contend for a championship. Nothing’s changed.”