- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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McKINNEY, Texas -- So much of Tony Romo's tenure as the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback has been about perception.
How he cares more about golf than football. How he never believed he would be a Pro Bowl quarterback, so he is content. How he wants to be more about Hollywood than Valley Ranch.
Funny, then, how Romo was among the first players to arrive at the Cowboys' practice facility when the lockout was lifted for one day. Funny, then, how Romo has organized offseason workouts for the entire team. Funny, then, when Romo missed the chance to advance to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open he spent more time talking about the football practices than an errant tee shot.
"We feel comfortable and excited, and I can't imagine other teams going quite to the extent of these team practices and that's exciting for us," Romo said.
Romo shot an 81 at Stonebridge Ranch Country Club on Monday. Tricky winds and tricky greens kept Romo from moving on, but a few times he said he has not played as much as he has in the past. Whether folks want to believe it, football has gotten in the way of Romo's golf game.
"It's a little more effort that you have to give," Romo said. "We have to have a few more guys take on leadership roles and some of the guys are going around talking to guys, working out with guys and then obviously we're on the field for practices and going through the things we need to get better. That takes precedence. That's what's important and that's what we need to do. This is just we have a little time off to the side and I love to compete."
Romo and veterans like Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Marc Colombo have helped keep the practices as close to an organized team activity as possible. The players follow a script -- seven minutes for stretch, pat-and-go, move-the-ball, walkthrough -- that their coaches have used for years.
"We had a little meeting and I told some of the guys, different position group leaders -- a Marc Colombo, Jason Witten -- [that] we need them to buy into committing themselves to be at this, No. 1, and also to be energized and passionate when they're out here because it's going to trickle down to their position groups," Romo said.
The tempo of the workouts are Jason Garrett-inspired, but if the offense or defense needs more time on a certain technique, play or formation, then they take the extra time to get things clarified. Romo sounded more business-like than into the building of chemistry that can take place in an offseason.
"Personally, I think it's more about sharpening skills and getting better," Romo said. "I think the bonding comes from doing that, but for us we could go bowling if we want to do that. But we've got to get better at football and the techniques. I don't know if you can pinpoint how important it is to the defense learning a new system, the verbiage, talking to the guys.
"When we're out there it's much easier for the players [to say], 'Hold on now. Take a minute. Let's talk about it,' than when you're on an exact practice and the coaches have certain things they have to get into for a meeting. You've still got times like that, but this is great for us and there's a lot more room to discuss things during a walkthrough period."
In an ideal offseason, there would be no lockout. Defensive players would be learning Rob Ryan's system from Rob Ryan. Romo could continue to work on his timing with Dez Bryant and fine-tuning it with Witten and Miles Austin at Valley Ranch under Garrett.
But in the long run this might be the best thing that could happen for Romo. The practices have given him a chance to put his stamp on the team.
"I do know for us to go where we hope to go we need to have a great offseason," Romo said. "So far the guys have done that."
And so has Romo, if you want to take notice.
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.