IRVING, Texas -- The rush was closing in from in front of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. He could not move to the right. There was no pocket to step into for relief.
The only option was to his left, but the choice had to be made quickly. He spun, like he did last season against J.J. Watt, set his feet and found a receiver down the sideline for a nice pickup.
It was vintage Romo.
More impressive, it was vintage Romo in late May.
For the last two years all Romo could do in the offseason was watch. In 2013, he was recovering from the removal of a cyst. In 2014, he was recovering from a discectomy.
“It’s been great,” Romo said of his offseason. “I think just to be able to kind of have an offseason. You’re always rehabbing, but at the same time, I’m kind of able to build during this offseason. It’s exciting really.”
That Romo had his best season in 2014 -- 34 touchdown passes, nine interceptions, a league-high completion percentage (69.9%), passer rating (113.2) and QBR -- after an offseason of inactivity showed his growth mentally.
Last year at this time he was throwing passes on the side as he rehabbed his back. In training camp he never practiced more than two straight days. After a slow start in the season opener, he altered his weekly practice schedule, sitting out Wednesdays.
It all worked.
Not being compromised physically also helps Romo prepare for 2015. He will continue to be monitored this year even if all is well. The Cowboys don’t want to overwork Romo, who turned 35 in April, in the spring. In Wednesday’s organized team activity, Romo took four snaps in each team period.
“Tony's obviously further along,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He didn't have an offseason surgery, so he was able to do a lot more things in our offseason program up to this point. And he was out at practice [Tuesday], took his reps with the other guys and made a lot of progress. So, he, like with a lot of guys on our team, you want to make sure you monitor them. You're on top of where they are every day in terms of their reps and what work they're getting. But he's handled everything we've asked him to do to this point really well.”
Like he did every offseason from 2003-12, he is attempting to find ways to improve his throwing motion, although he wants to keep whatever trick he might find secret for now. He is studying defenses more than ever as well.
“Just some of the understanding situationally what defenses are good at and what they’re trying to do across the league, what they are having some success with and what you’re ready for,” Romo said. “I think we’ll be a little ahead of the game in that regard.”
As he prepares for his 13th season overall and ninth full campaign as the Cowboys’ starter, Romo finds himself enjoying the grind again. There will always be rehab for his back and days that will be better than others.
“When you’re younger you’re trying to figure out who you’re going to be and what you need to do,” Romo said. “The older you get you almost have an appreciation of just being part of the mundane. I enjoy that.”
There was nothing mundane about the spin away from trouble to find the receiver along the sideline. There was nothing mundane about a long pass down the left sideline to Devin Street in 7-on-7 drills.
With his first two receivers covered to his right, Romo came back to his left to Street, who was running a go route. With cornerback Tyler Patmon in decent position, Romo flicked his wrist for a completion of at least 45 yards, dropping the ball into Street’s hands for the big play.
“I think a lot of improvement comes from asking yourself the right questions and figuring out what you need to do to be better,” Romo said. “I think a lot of guys just don’t understand how to ask themselves the type of questions to try to figure you how to improve. That’s something I’ve done well over the years to try and figure out how to be better each year. That’s the goal really -- to be better than the previous year.”