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Broken collarbone sidelines Romo, casts pall on Cowboys

Tony Romo doesn't need surgery on his broken left collarbone, just time for it to heal.

He might have until spring minicamp.

Romo is expected to miss between six and eight weeks, which could be an eternity for the 1-5 Dallas Cowboys. If their playoff hopes aren't already squelched, they likely will be by the time their Pro Bowl quarterback is healthy again. So perhaps team owner Jerry Jones will end up telling Romo to call it a season and rest up for 2011.

Think about it: Considering how much the Cowboys struggled when led by their star, it seems unlikely they will turn things around while led by 38-year-old backup quarterback Jon Kitna, who hadn't thrown a pass in more than two years before Monday night and whose last gig as a starter was on a Detroit Lions team that went winless in 2008.

"We're not going to stop right now and give up or quit or whine or even make excuses," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Tuesday. "You've just got to go forward. That's what we have to do. I think our guys will band together."

The Cowboys opened training camp hyped as favorites to reach the Super Bowl, which will be played at Jones' $1.2 billion stadium. They already were on the brink of being left behind Monday night when Romo threw a pass early in the second quarter, then took a hard -- but clean -- hit from New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley.

Boley drove Romo into the ground on his left shoulder, leaving him flat on his back. Boley said he heard Romo "let out a little scream," and the quarterback said he had trouble breathing and regaining his senses. X-rays taken immediately showed the fracture, and further tests Tuesday, including a CT scan, confirmed the initial diagnosis.

Phillips spoke with Romo on Tuesday and described him as disappointed.

"He's going to be sad for a while," Phillips said.

Romo also might be peeved at rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski, who was supposed to have stood in Boley's way.

"We just made a mistake," Phillips said. "It certainly was unfortunate for Tony. It was a base thing that we've run since training camp. That was the discouraging thing. ... (Romo) just fell the wrong way. He's been hit before, but this time it was more serious."

Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman had the same injury for Dallas in 1998 and missed seven weeks.

Even at the best-case scenario of six weeks, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys being contenders by the time Romo returns. Base that on how they've played so far as well as who they have coming up: four teams with winning records (the Green Bay Packers, the Giants again, the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts) and two downtrodden clubs (the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, and later the Detroit Lions) that would love kicking someone else when they are down, especially when that team is the Cowboys.

"We got one game left -- one game, that's it," Phillips said, refusing to look beyond the Jaguars' visit to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. "You can talk about 10 games, and this game, and hard schedule and all that. We've got one game. We've got to play that game. We've got to play as hard as we can play. And try to win that ballgame, and that's what we are going to do."

This season is such a disaster that 2010 already is connected to two of the worst teams in Cowboys history: 1989 (1-15 in the first year of Jones' ownership) and 1960 (0-11-1 in franchise's inaugural year). At least both those teams had excuses for being so terrible.

The only other time Dallas was this bad this early was in 1963. Coach Tom Landry's fourth team was expected to be up-and-coming, but it struggled and was further hurt by the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas. After going 4-10 that season, Landry received a 10-year contract extension to show how much management believed in him.

For more on the Dallas Cowboys, check out the latest from our bloggers.

Ah, how times have changed.

The only job security for Phillips is that Romo's absence helps ensure his employment for the remainder of this season. Jones has been adamant about wanting to keep the coach and might as well since it could be a lost cause anyway.

"Romo getting hurt doesn't affect the way I feel about Wade," Jones said after the game.

With the Cowboys losing their relevancy before Halloween, local sports fans can turn their attention to the Texas Rangers in the World Series or the Dallas Mavericks season that begins Wednesday night. The football loyalists are probably working on their mock drafts, guessing whether Jones will want to spruce up the offensive line or go for another "wow" pick such as rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant.

The Cowboys probably won't go looking for another quarterback because they already have millions of dollars and 1½ seasons invested in Kitna and his backup, Stephen McGee, a 2009 fourth-round pick from Texas A&M.

Kitna was out of whack for much of the second and third quarters Monday, while the Cowboys' defense gave up 31 unanswered points, including scores on five consecutive drives; Phillips described it as "a lull after Tony left." Kitna threw two touchdown passes in the final few minutes, narrowing the final score to 41-35 and giving Phillips hope for the coming weeks.

"I think he'll do a good job," Phillips said. "That's why we got him -- in case things like this happen."

The Cowboys have other injury concerns, too.

Veteran defensive end Jason Hatcher strained a groin muscle and "will be out a while," said Phillips, who called the injury "pretty significant," according to the team's website.

Montrae Holland, who replaced veteran guard Kosier in the starting lineup Monday night, also strained a groin against the Giants. Phillips called both offensive linemen "iffy" for the game against the Jaguars.

That means undrafted rookie Phil Costa could start.

"I thought he did a pretty good job for us," Phillips said, according to the team's website. "In fact, he did do a good job for us overall. He did give up a sack, but most of the other plays I thought he played pretty well. We'll see what happens."

Terence Newman, one of just three cornerbacks on the active roster, had a CT scan Tuesday on his ribs, *The Dallas Morning News* reported. He sustained the injury on a first-quarter interception and missed a few series to take a pain-killing injection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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