"What the hell are the Cowboys' doctors doing?" the former Bengals, Jets and Cardinals quarterback said in an interview with USA Today." Are you allowed to play with a punctured lung, a collapsed lung, broken ribs? Is that what the NFL is now? Or do we actually care about the players? Or is it all just lip service? I think (Commissioner) Roger Goodell has got to look at that particular situation very seriously."
Esiason, who made his comments before reports surfaced Friday that Romo's punctured lung had healed, pointed a finger at the intense scrutiny placed on Dallas' quarterback. After Romo was characterized by some as choking in the opening loss to the Jets, Esiason believes the negative attention propelled the quarterback to play through the pain in San Francisco.
"Everybody's got an opinion on Tony Romo. Everybody wants to put pressure on him," Esiason said. "He's not the big-time QB, he's not Troy Aikman, he's not Roger Staubach, I get all that. But that fueled Tony Romo in my estimation on Sunday. He may deny it. ... I know he probably feels in the back of his mind, 'What are they going to write about me now if I don't show up on the field?' Now, he has a punctured lung and two fractured ribs."
Esiason, who serves as an analyst for CBS, didn't stop there: "... You can make that your headline: 'Why the hell isn't the NFL investigating how Tony Romo got back on the field?' And why are we glorifying it? Why are we now saying Tony Romo's the greatest QB of all time because he showed toughness? That mindset is supposedly what the NFLPA and the NFL are trying to get away from it. Yet here we are glorifying it after the fact. You can't have it both ways."
We don't know how the Cowboys went about clearing their quarterback, but -- like Esiason -- Romo understands the scrutiny surrounding a star passer who hasn't won a Super Bowl. While Esiason came oh-so-close against the 49ers in XXIII, Romo's won a single playoff game in a town where Aikman's shadow seems forever draped across Big D.