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Tony Romo is Cowboys' senior voice

OXNARD, Calif. -- So many of the faces have changed over the past few years with the Dallas Cowboys that Tony Romo wonders who's staring back at him inside the huddle.

Along the offensive line, no starter from 2010 remains in the same position. Left tackle Tyron Smith was a freshman in high school when Tony Romo was a rookie with the Cowboys and a senior by the time Romo became the starting quarterback.

Miles Austin is the only wide receiver of consequence left from the 2009 season. The starting running back is different, too. The constant has been at tight end in seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten.

Just like that, Romo has become the Cowboys' sage.

At 32 and entering his 10th season, he is the oldest player on offense and the second oldest on the team.

"Well, it doesn't seem like that, that's for sure," Romo said. "I didn't play for the first three and a half seasons and missed basically a full season [2010] in another one. I guess I've only really played, five, five and a half seasons of football. It kind of feels like that, but 10 is definitely a big number."

At his first training camp with Bill Parcells inside San Antonio's Alamodome, he was just trying to survive as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois. He never thought about a 10-year career. He certainly never thought about having his every word analyzed by dozens of media members surrounding him as he sat on a folding chair on the back of a golf cart. He never thought about those cheering him just for running onto the practice field.

"All I knew was I had to make this throw, this play, just to try to make the team," Romo said. "At that time, it was all about trying to digest the information, trying to learn the offense, trying to do what the coaches wanted you do to, get yelled at, come back, get yelled at some more and try to just get better, really."

The thought of trying to get better still drives Romo. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and '07. He set franchise records for touchdown passes in a season (36) and passing yards (4,211) in 2007. But it wasn't good enough, in his mind.

"It would be laughable if I went back to '06, '07, '08 and '09 and watched the way I played compared to where I am," Romo said.

There was too much looseness in his game then. His motion was not fluid enough. His footwork was not solid. His accuracy was not good enough.

But the Cowboys went to the playoffs those two years. Romo almost sounds like Parcells, who often alluded to the mistakes Romo was getting away with in his first year as a starter.

"Just because you go by wins and losses doesn't always dictate how you're playing individually," Romo said. "And I know that. At my position it's very easy to look at that and say that's what matters most, because it does. Ultimately, that's what you're judged by and ultimately what I want to be judged by, but it doesn't mean you're better then than you are now. I think it's a world of difference, believe me."

If he didn't take a big picture view as a rookie, he does a little more now.

"I think anytime you play quarterback in the National Football League, you feel the onus to produce and get your team to play in big games and ultimately winning a Super Bowl," Romo said. "That's part of playing the position. That's why you love to play the position. That's why you compete as hard as you do. For me, I want that [a championship] for a lot of different reasons. A big one is I want it for the Dallas Cowboys' fan base. It's been a while. They stood by this team through a lot of good times and through a lot of bad. … It excited me to know we have a chance if we keep continuing to improve to bring that back."

Coach Jason Garrett has mentioned how Romo has matured as a player and leader. He talked about the tinkering Romo has done with his mechanics over the years just to make a scintilla of difference in one throw, like a golfer going through swing changes.

Even off what was his best season last year, Romo has made a change. He won't discuss what slight alteration he has made, but after just one practice he believes it will lead to a more successful 2012.

"This is too big, too important," Romo said. "I'll tell you one day when I'm done."

When will that be?

"I don't know," he said. "Fifteen years?"