Tony Romo breaks bone in back, out until mid-season

Disaster has struck in Dallas.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett announced Saturday that starting quarterback Tony Romo underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed a broken bone in his back, per David Helman of the team's official website.

Garrett labeled Romo "day-to-day" and refused to give a timetable for his return, but NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the quarterback's "best-case scenario" is returning by mid-season after suffering a compression fracture of his vertebrae, per a source informed of the situation.

Rapoport noted that Romo "broke a different bone" than in 2014, when he suffered two fractures in his transverse process, and would "likely need an epidural to play." The hope is that Romo will return after the bye for his team's Week 8 showdown with the Eagles, with Garrett saying: "We're confident that he's going to be coming back and playing football for us this year."

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones described the loss of Romo as "a punch to the gut," and told the Dallas Morning News the team is open to possibly acquiring another quarterback. He added that Romo is intent on not seeing a repeat of 2015 play out.

"He's certainly not deterred," Jones said. He feels like it's going to be different. That he can get through this.

"He also feels very confident our team can win games without him while he's not here. He's driven to help Dak (Prescott) win football games for us so when he gets back we have a great chance to have a great season, get in the tournament and contend for a championship, nothing's changed."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is confident Romo will be back this season since the injury is "nowhere near the issue he had last year (broken clavicle), not even in the same league as far as we're concerned."

Romo was hurt three plays into Thursday's preseason game against the Seahawks, writhing on the field after taking a hit from Seattle's Cliff Avril. Despite lobbying to return, Romo was quickly removed from the lineup in favor of Prescott, the promising rookie.

This is dark news for Dallas. Back injuries are especially tricky and Romo's recent career has been riddled with broken bones and upper-body setbacks. At age 36, it's fair to wonder how many more hits his body can endure.

It's a worst-case development for the Cowboys, but Prescott also brings a dash of hope. While it's dubious to judge quarterbacks off preseason action, the fourth-rounder has lit up opponents in August and made one big play after the next for Big D. Prescott currently leads the NFL in completion percentage (78 percent), passing yards (454), passing touchdowns (5) and quarterback rating (137.8). Still, the Cowboys understand Prescott will need further development.

"We're not naive enough to think that a rookie QB can come in here and do what (Romo has) done in the preseason," Stephen Jones told KDFW-TV in Dallas. "But at the same time, I think he makes our team feel good and he's got a great chemistry with the offensive group."

The strategy in Dallas won't change, though, with the clock-chewing Cowboys expected to ride rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott in hopes of keeping their less-than-stellar defense off the field.

For weeks, many have wondered what Prescott might accomplish in the rough-and-tumble regular season. They'll find out much sooner than anyone expected.

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