Two days after he was publicly criticized by one of his franchise's icons, Tony Romo pledged to be a different kind of leader in 2009, The Dallas Morning News reported.
"I think leadership sometimes comes with your ability to perform and your personality," Romo said, according to the newspaper. "And some of it comes with experience. In a lot of ways, I think I've gotten to the point where I've gained experience.
"I'm definitely going to take a more active approach with that as we move forward from last year to this season," he said, according to the report. "I'll be very excited to get back out there and be with the guys and figure out a way to improve and get better and do the things we need to do to win. Period."
Romo's comments were his first with a Dallas-area media outlet following the end of the regular season, in which the Cowboys collapsed down the stretch and missed the NFC playoffs -- the latest in a string of poor December performances by the team. That collapse was capped by a season-ending 44-6 drubbing at archrival Philadelphia, dropping Romo's December record to 5-8.
But Romo's Dallas-area media blackout ended when two major aftershocks from the Cowboys' December disaster shook the franchise.
The first was a Morning News report earlier this week that Cowboys players had "lost respect" for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, in part because of Romo. The paper, citing five sources, said that Romo was inconsistent in practice and that it "affected the way he played in games and could have factored into the offense's problems."
The second came Tuesday from Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who, appearing on fellow Hall of Famer Michael Irvin's radio show, questioned whether Romo understood what it takes to be quarterback of the Cowboys, citing Romo's infamous vacation trip to Cabo San Lucas with girlfriend Jessica Simpson during the bye week before last year's NFL playoffs.
"I think maybe things happened so quickly for Tony in terms of obscurity to all of a sudden national spotlight that he hasn't fully grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about," Aikman said in the radio appearance. "And you don't go to Cabo the week before a playoff game. You just don't do it.
"It didn't take away from his preparations. I know that. I mean, everything he says is I think accurate. I don't think that had any bearing," Aikman said. "But to say, 'I don't worry about perception,' you better worry about perception, because it's a big part of making it through some very difficult times."
The perception of Romo didn't improve with some Cowboys fans after he threw for 183 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in the embarrassing season-ending loss to the Eagles. After that game, when asked how he deals with tough losses such as that one, he said, "I wake up tomorrow and I keep living."
On Wednesday, Romo said he might have been trying to "ease the pain of the moment" after the loss in Philly, according to the Morning News.
"I might have tried to find a silver lining to talk myself into feeling OK," Romo said, according to the report. "But I'm still not OK with it."
Romo also said after that game that the Cowboys' offense was "exposed" by the Eagles -- a statement widely interpreted as a criticism of Garrett. But according to the report, Romo said he and Garrett have since spoken.
"We met after the football game and went into what went pretty good and what we could've done differently," Romo said, according to the Morning News. "Going forward, I'm pretty excited about some of the things we're going to be doing."
The loss to the Eagles -- after which Romo collapsed in the shower because of a rib cartilage injury -- ended a difficult season in which he missed three games with a fractured pinkie and took 13 stitches to close a gash on his chin.
"I think this was definitely the most trying physical year I've had in my athletic career," Romo said, according to the newspaper report. "Sometimes you have to go through that, and if you do go through something like that, you can be stronger."
What Romo did not want to talk about, however, was his relationship with mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens. "Haven't we been through that already?" he said, according to the report.