Garrett undecided on Romo's availability for preseason opener

Quarterback Tony Romo recently signed a franchise-record contract with the Cowboys.
Mark J. Terrill/AP

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) -- Jason Garrett was a little bewildered by getting grilled a week early over whether Tony Romo would play in the Dallas Cowboys' preseason opener.

The Dallas coach dodged questions on the topic Saturday, a day after the team's flagship radio station quoted Garrett as saying the Hall of Fame game against Miami next Sunday was "not going to be Tony's game.''

Pressed several times by reporters, about all Garrett would say was the coaching staff hadn't decided the playing rotation.

"I don't want to get into the hypotheticals,'' Garrett said flatly when asked about the comments to the radio station. "We'll talk about how each of our 90 players will or will not play in those games next week.''

The Cowboys have an extra preseason game, and Garrett suggested to the radio station that the starters were more likely to debut in the second game against Oakland.

Even if Romo plays, it will only be a handful of snaps. His most important preseason game is the fourth one this year - Aug. 24 against Cincinnati.

But Romo just signed the richest contract in franchise history - six years, $108 million with $55 million guaranteed, or $3 million more than Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco got from Baltimore. And Romo didn't take a real snap the entire offseason after having a cyst removed from his back.

Thus the varying questions for Garrett on what he hopes to get out of the preseason and how many games are ideal for the starters.

"Well, we have five, and so what we're going to do is try to get our players ready as best we can with those five preseason games,'' Garrett said. "The balance is to get your team ready, your starters ready, evaluate your young guys - that's a really important thing so you cut your team down the right way. And obviously avoiding injuries is an important part of the preseason.''

Romo didn't talk to reporters while leaving the field after Saturday's early practice.

Garrett had four preseason games each of his two previous training camps as coach. If he considers that the ideal number for starters - he wouldn't say - the Cowboys could hold the first teams out of the game against the Dolphins and play them briefly in the last exhibition against Houston on Aug. 29.

"We think it benefits us to be out here a few days earlier, and we certainly think it benefits us and the players on our football team, particularly the young guys to evaluate them in an extra preseason game,'' Garrett said.

If the starters sit, at least one of them won't exactly be thrilled. Safety Barry Church hasn't played since tearing his Achilles tendon in the Week 3 last year.

Plus, the Cowboys are implementing the 4-3 defense after nearly a decade with three linemen and four linebackers. There's still plenty to learn.

"If it was only two series out there, I would love to play two series,'' Church said. "The first couple of practices out here, I was so anxious, I was hitting my own teammates and that's not a good thing. I'm very anxious to get back on the field and looking forward to getting back out there, especially for the Hall of Fame game.''

NOTES: WR Dez Bryant didn't participate in team drills during the morning walk-through Saturday, a day after saying he cramped up in practice but was fine. Garrett wouldn't say whether Bryant would practice in the afternoon. ... DE Ben Bass has a sprained ankle and could be out a few days. The Cowboys are down to their fourth option at left defensive end. That was Cameron Sheffield in Saturday's early session.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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