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Romo feeling better, practices without splint

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo is 1-0 since putting on a splint to protect his broken pinkie, and he may have to wear it for his next start -- and the one after that.

But for a few throws Wednesday, Romo ditched the splint to see how close he might be to playing without it.

"It's getting better," Romo said. "Every day that goes by it gets a little bit better. I threw lightly out there without the splint on, so I feel confident."

Romo's mild progress was part of a news-filled day for the Cowboys' medical staff, including Terrell Owens going home with flulike symptoms; emerging receiver and fill-in kick returner Miles Austin being lost for up to a month with a knee injury; Isaiah Stanback coming back from a shoulder injury to replace Austin; and rookie running back Felix Jones returning to a portion of practice.

Owens is expected to recover in time to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Jones is a lot less likely.

Jones has been out since hurting a hamstring Oct. 12 and coach Wade Phillips revealed Wednesday that "some other things came up during his injury rehab." Phillips said it wasn't a knee injury, but wasn't any more specific. Neither was owner Jerry Jones.

"There is more. What we are doing is evaluating that," Jerry Jones said. "There are parts of it we are having to look at intently and see if he has his strength in some areas, and some direction."

Asked for clarification, the owner responded, "We are trying to see if he can play at full strength. ... It's not the hamstring. We are trying to see if the 'more' will allow him to play."

The practice report released by the team said the running back had limited participation Wednesday because of the hamstring.

Dallas hasn't scored more than 14 points in the four games Jones has missed after scoring at least 24 in the six he played. Romo's problems are the main reason, but the Cowboys certainly have missed Jones' big-play ability, too.

He's gained 266 yards on 30 carries, an average of 8.9 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns: an 11-yarder on his first NFL carry, a 60-yarder and a 33-yarder. He also has a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and is averaging 27.1 yards over 16 returns. That's about 5 yards per return better than his replacement, Austin.

Austin was more involved than Patrick Crayton in the last game and he averages a team-best 21.3 yards per catch. His three touchdown catches are second on the team. Those chances may now go to Stanback, a college quarterback in his second year playing receiver. He has two catches for 24 yards in five games.

Owens will be playing against San Francisco for only the second time since leaving the 49ers after the 2003 season. He had 143 yards and two touchdowns while with Philadelphia in 2005. But he wasn't able to go over the game plan Wednesday. He also missed out on a conference call with 49ers beat writers.

"He came in and we sent him back home," Phillips said. "We're hoping he'll be better tomorrow."

Because of Thanksgiving, the Cowboys are going into a stretch of two games in five days, followed by a few extra days off. Coaches will keep that in mind when deciding things like how long Romo should keep on his splint and when Jones can suit up.

Phillips knows Romo is ready to go au naturale, "but it's not quite time yet."

Romo needs an extra split second to grip it right with the cast, but Phillips said he can still make every type of throw. He said a headwind in Washington on Sunday night was a bigger obstacle than any physical limitations.

Still, Jerry Jones said he is impressed with how Romo is adapting while hurt.

"He doesn't have the little finger to grab the ball. He figures out a way to do it with four fingers," Jones said. "That's him. ... It really defines him."

Romo took the splint off during a morning walkthrough. He had it back on during the portion of team drills that were open to the media.

He said he needs to keep wearing it in practice so he's comfortable with it during games.

"You want to make it where you've done it already," he said. "The more times I can do that, the better I feel when I go out there to play."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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