No competitor ever really wants to leave the game, but ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo revealed how the team being in good hands at the quarterback position in 2017 led to his retirement.
The NFL on CBS A-team color commentator spent time with Dr. Phil McGraw on the "Phil in the Blanks" podcast and talked about the factors that influenced his retirement and transition to the broadcast booth.
"I didn't want to leave the game and feeling like I said, 'All right, goodbye. Good luck,'" said Romo. "Because I know how hard that game is. I know how much you can influence and help other people. It was actually weirdly made easier when I felt like they were in good hands. That part of it actually gave me a feeling of, okay, I wasn't necessarily thinking this right now, but it was coming around the corner pretty soon."
On Aug. 25, 2016, in the third preseason game at the Seattle Seahawks, Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back that knocked him out for at least eight weeks. It allowed fourth-round rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who was already elevated to backup due to Kellen Moore's broken ankle, to take the reins as the starter. Prescott tied Ben Roethlisberger's rookie record of winning 13 games as a starter, helped Dallas win the NFC East, and secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Still, it was difficult for the four-time Pro Bowler with a 2-4 playoff record and no conference title game appearances to walk away from the sport, somewhat due to his loyalties towards teammate Jason Witten, coach Jason Garrett, and the Jones family.
"In a lot of ways there was loyalty to a lot of people within the Cowboys, some teammates that you went through a lot of games with and a lot of battles, and then front office, some coaches," said Romo.
Romo admits, though jokingly, that he may have played the game until he died.
Said Romo: "You can't not win. I'll just keep going until I can't breathe, it feels like. And that's why in football, if I would have kept playing, I might have just died at the end of this day."
The chief factor that played into Romo's decision to walk away was the inevitable life after football that awaits every NFL player.
"I think I needed to be not so selfish in some ways," said Romo. "I've got three boys and I recognized some injury aspects, some things that had come about obviously with my back and knowing how hard it was for a year or two to get through that and get ready and prepare.”
Part of Romo's support structure who helped him evaluate retirement were his wife, Candice and his parents, all three of which Romo collectively refers to as "really intelligent people."
"I know I've given everything, but I would continue to do this until I’m 58 to win a Super Bowl," Romo said. "I needed to get out of my own way in some ways and be a dad and do something else."
Romo may never have had the chance to win a Super Bowl, but he did call one on Feb. 3 as the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. While a lightning rod figure in his playing days upon whom fans and media personalities alike proscribed as the perpetuation of the Cowboys' championship drought, Romo has found a greater appreciation in the athlete afterlife behind the microphone calling big games in the NFL. Not only are the Cowboys in good hands, but so is Romo.
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