If you were one of the people complaining that the NFL's biggest names were nowhere to be seen during the first two weeks of meaningless preseason games, you were no doubt stoked to see Tony Romo take the field for the Cowboys on Thursday night. For three plays, anyway, because this is how Romo's evening ended, a few minutes after it began:
So yeah, this is every Cowboys fan's worst nightmare.
Last season, Romo suffered two collarbone injuries, played in just four games, and Dallas limped to a 4-12 record with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore under center. And while rookie Dak Prescott has been impressive, the reality is that this team is only going as far as the 36-year-old Romo can take it. So perhaps it's not surprising that, shortly after Romo was contorted into a pile of laundry by Seahawks pass rusher Cliff Avril, the torch-and-pitchfork crowd took to Twitter to voice their displeasure in Avril's general direction.
The sad part is my boy was sliding. And it's the preseason. Why @cliffavril— Tyler (@TylerStrong95) August 26, 2016
@cliffavril you're a dirty player and that was a dirty hit. Hitting a sliding QB from behind in PRESEASON. Hope you tear your knee apart.— Ryan Borger (@rjb8586) August 26, 2016
First things first: As a fan, it's demoralizing to lose your franchise quarterback (again), but it's a stretch to say that Avril's hit on Romo was dirty. Yes, Romo was sliding, but this photo clearly shows Avril tackling Romo before the quarterback is down.
Was it awkward? Sure, but that's what happens when 230-something-pound well-conditioned athletes run full speed into each other for three hours a week. But awkward doesn't mean dirty.
More importantly: Romo sounds like he'll be fine, even if he didn't return to the game.
"I mean obviously, we were being smart,'' Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. "In a weird way, I feel good about the fact that was probably as tough of a hit I've taken on the back as I've had in the last five years. From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and I can keep going.''
Meanwhile, Avril took to Twitter to respond to the critics.
Look I'm not in the business of hurting anybody... Definitely didn't know @TonyRomo was hurt... So all u guys on my timeline can fall back!!— Cliff Avril (@cliffavril) August 26, 2016
Cliff Avril on Tony Romo: "Teammates said he was all right, so that's good. I'm never in the business of trying to hurt anybody."— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) August 26, 2016
"You can't put people in bubble wrap," Romo said. "You've got to play. It's football. You're going to get hit and things happen."
The quarterback added: "I don't think we'll have another one as far as, a hit that is timed that perfect on your back. That's as extreme of one as you don't want to have, I guess you could say.''