IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) -- Tony Romo lurched slowly around Valley Ranch on the Monday following the end of the Dallas Cowboys' season, attending the year's final team meeting as a gesture meant to provide fellow players an emotional lift after failing to secure a playoff berth.
But that will be the only sort of "lifting'' Romo will be doing for a while, as sources say the three-to-four-month recovery period for back surgery is a result of the herniated disc procedure he underwent on Friday that may have revealed an additional complication: a rupture of jelly-like "disc material'' into the spinal canal.
That "material'' in the spinal canal can cause pressure on the nerves in the spine and a chemical irritation of the nerve roots. That can mean pain and a loss of motor skills – both clearly factors in the decision to give up on a "miracle'' comeback for Romo, who played with this condition at the end of the Week 16 win at Washington but, even after receiving treatment and a steroid injection, could not function during the week before the Eagles finale – and therefore, the decision to undergo surgery.
"We feel really good about the procedure he had, we feel really good about the rehabilitation program he's going to be on, and we feel like there is a great history of players coming back from this kind of surgery," coach Jason Garrett said. "Tony is going to work very hard at it, and it's really important to him to come back and be better than ever."
The Cowboys insist that this surgery is unrelated to last spring's "cyst removal'' that was performed on May 22 and kept Romo from practicing with the team until July 22. But in fact, sources say that operation was "spine-involved'' as well (likely a partial discectomy to remove disc pressure on a nerve). And this week, team sources tell me that while Romo's back problem only flared up in the Washington game – causing him to have to return home on the team plane laying down flat across two seats – he did on a weekly basis undergo Monday treatments for his back, as at least a preventative measure.
Whatever the details, Romo has at age 33 undergone two back operations in the span of eight months. Given the Cowboys' investment in the quarterback, the hope is that he returns with no major negative ramifications from the procedures.
"Obviously, it's been a tough eight months for him physically,'' said teammate and close friend Jason Witten. "But I'm confident he'll come back. I know what he's made of. He'll bounce back and be better than he's ever been. I believe that to the bottom of my heart."
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