It's Kyle Orton's show now

IRVING, Texas -- All week the Dallas Cowboys had practiced with the idea that Tony Romo will not play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Players spoke in the past tense regarding Romo, while also making sure to add they did not know for sure Romo would be out. Jon Kitna did it. So did Jason Hatcher and Morris Claiborne. Jason Witten hedged his bets some too, knowing the pain Romo has played through at different times.

“I wouldn’t count him out until he’s out,” Witten said Thursday.

Now they know Romo is out Sunday and won’t play again until 2014.

If the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs it will be with Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback.

“I think he’s practiced well,” Garrett said. “Kyle is a pro. He’s been at this a long time and it’s one of the reasons we have him. He’s a veteran quarterback. He’s taken a lot of snaps. He’s got poise. He’s got confidence. He’s a very composed guy. He has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do and a good understanding of the defense and our players respond well to him.”

But he’s not Romo. He cannot get away from trouble the way Romo can. He does not have Romo’s feel for the offense simply because he has not played as much. But he has experience . He is 35-34 as a starter for the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

“Tony is a pretty special player and it’s hard to replace a guy like that, but Kyle has been a great player all year, the last two years,” Witten said Thursday. “He has a great rapport with the guys.”

Orton took all of the offseason snaps with the first-team offense as Romo recovered from the spring-time surgery. He had not taken a first-team snap in the regular season until Wednesday.

Orton said he will rely on Dez Bryant, Witten and DeMarco Murray to make plays. His goal is to keep it simple.

“I’m going to try to get to the right spot, throw the ball to the right guy and we’ve got good skill position players all around,” Orton said on Christmas day. “So I don’t think you have to focus in on one guy. You just throw to the open guy and let him do what he does. We’ve kind of shown this season that we have a lot of guys who can make plays.”

In 2008 Orton was the Bears’ starter in a win-and-in game against the Houston Texans. Chicago lost 31-24. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 24 yards with two touchdown passes. He also ran for a score.

“Anytime you get down to Week 17, everybody in this locker room is excited,” Orton said. “It’s a good excitement to have. It’s a good stress to have. Win and you’re in. I’m sure those guys in Philadelphia are feeling the same way. Handle your emotions. Don’t be too high for the game and go out and play great.”

It’s his show now.