Tony Romo Speaks: On Golf, Leadership, And The Lockout

After vanishing from the airwaves after his much ballyhooed wedding, Tony Romo has resurfaced of late, mostly with a golf club in his hand. In response to this, Dallas' CBS radio affiliate was ranking on Romo a bit recently, with the target of the abuse his golf game. The burning question: could he be better if he gave up golf? Apparently, Romo was listening, as he called up to chat with the host, Gavin Dawson, to share some insight about his obsession with the links.

Does golf interfere with Romo's focus on football? He answers with an emphatic "no." He's verging on the time of year where he puts his clubs away for seven months--until February, he noted optimistically. He made it clear that he doesn't have the "golf bug" per se. Rather, he has what he calls "the competitive bug," and golf presents a great opportunity to compete during the offseason. Largely, this is because of the game's mental challenges.

Along those lines, Romo hinted that both Michael Jordan (with whom he has golfed recently) and Dirk Nowitzki have demonstrated an enviable mental approach to sports. Claiming that the hardest thing about sports is the "mental handicap," Romo noted that neither basketball great gets down when things are going badly. By extension, both trust that, by grinding away and doing their job, good things will eventually happen (sounds like he's parroting Jason Garrett; Romo has clearly become the RHG's quarterback). That's why, for Romo, golf is such a great game, because it teaches you (often rather cruelly) that "you have to learn to bounce back."

His highest priority, he reassured listeners, "is to lead this football team on the field." He went on to detail what this has meant during the recent lockout. In what I found a refreshing response, he said that its his responsibility to "get everyone together and make sure they've bought in" to the offseaosn training program. He noted that, when the coaches are present, OTAs can be a grueling affair; nevertheless, it was of paramount import that the players commit to the same level of focus and rigor that would be required of them had the coaches been present--and, according to Romo, they did just that.

This aspect of the interview was explored more fully a couple days earlier, when Romo sat down with ESPN's Ed Werder to talk football. When asked what his first order of business will be once a new CBA agreement is reached, Romo said that his job is the same either way: he has to get the team ready to start training camp. But this was the shocker to me. He concluded by saying, "we're going to be starting training camp at the same time whether the lockout has ended or not and that is my job right now." In other words, he (and the other team leaders) will begin training camp without the coaches if necessary.

I would assume that a coachless training camp would be run much the way the offseason program was: Romo selected a player form each position group to organize, oversee and rally that particular group:

We sat down with the positon group leaders and said, "If each one of you doesn't buy in and commit to this fully, it will have a trickle-down effect for each individual at your position." They all, to their credit, bought in....These guys were there and they committed themselves to being out there consistently, day in and day out....We got a ot out of it. I know for a fact that it want a long way to helping us this offseason.

In the past few months, positive reports have surfaced concerning the player-led offseason workouts, and that Romo was the organizing force behind them. More recently, the significant degree of that organization and the overall scope of the program have become clearer. Engineering team unity during a labor dispute is a remarkable achievement. Most impressive to me is the way he has conducted himself of late. In the Werder interview, he is relaxed but all business; I perceived a notable change in tone, a steely-eyes firmness that I haven't seen in the past.

I suppose that's why his teammates have said of late that the lockout has been a good thing for Tony and his leadership of the team. Less-informed media types are still playing the Romo-leadership kazoo for all its worth. In the past week, Warren Sapp and Bucky Brooks both opined on the absence of leadership for the Cowboys. Looking at what has transpired this offseason, I'm gonna have to call foul on these tired claims.

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