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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Will Tony Romo Return "Better Than Ever?"

Latest Cowboys headlines: What happened during Tony Romo's 254-day recovery from back injury; Why Cowboys are optimistic 2013's last-ranked defense can make a big jump; San Francisco 49ers face many distractions as season opens.

Tom Pennington

Better than ever? What happened in the 254 days it took Tony Romo to recover from back injury | David Moore, DMN
This is a must-read on this Sunday morning. David Moore offers another one of his excellent, in-depth articles in which he details Romo's recovery from back surgery, and reveals that

  • Romo played through "the most pain he’s ever felt," after injuring his back against Washington in Week 16 last year, but stayed in the game to lead the Cowboys to victory.
  • the reason Romo didn't practice for more than two consecutive days in camp was to avoid the "inflammatory cycle. If you don’t give it time to calm down and rest, it will always be irritated.’’
  • after the first two weeks of practice, Romo admitted "I'm hurting a lot," and the Cowboys shut him down completely for four days.

Special Edition: What Does Dez's X Mean? -
In this video, Dez Bryant explains what "throwing up the X" means.

"It's really not just for football. It's also for the changes that I've made in my life, I've exed out all the bad stuff. For the field, it's 'I just entered your endzone, I just invaded your privacy.' 'X' - I want you to know that I've been here."

"Throwing up the X means 'I'm here. All day. And I'm going nowhere. You're going to have to deal with this problem.' That's what it means."

Why Cowboys are optimistic 2013's last-ranked defense can make a big jump | Rainer Sabin, DMN
Sabin writes that pessimists expect the Cowboys defense "not only to be among the worst in the league this season but the annals of pro football, too." Barry Church doesn't agree:

"In Rod’s system, I feel like we should make a huge jump this year because we know the system now, we know what he wants, we know what he expects out of us as players," safety Barry Church said.

"[Rod's system] is more bone-on-bone, we’re going to hit you, we’re going to out-physical you and the score will take care of itself. With Marinelli, you just got to come to practice every day with a mindset that you’re going to come, strip the ball and you’re going to hit and run to the ball and hustle every day."

"Everybody pretty much knows this defense front to back," Church said. "Rod’s system is, ‘Here’s what we’re in. See if you can beat us.’ There should be no last-ranking defense in the NFL – at least this year."

Jeremy Mincey ready for new role - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Jeremy Mincey will get a lot of playing time today, Archer writes, as he expects Mincey to play RDE in the base defense and move inside in the nickel, with Kyle Wilber possibly playing end. The Cowboys like what they've got in Mincey:

"Mince has been fantastic," coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s come in here, and he works as hard as any player on our football team. Just go to practice. He has a tremendous intensity about him in everything that he does. He’s a real pro, and he’s made the guys around him better. He’s made the other defensive linemen better. He’s made the offensive linemen that he goes against better. One of the best parts of my day is when pass rush starts and we line up 77 (Tyron Smith) and 92 over there and they go at each other. He brings it every play, every day. He’s a real pro, and he’s really helped our football team."

Pondering the 46: Heavy on the DL - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Todd Archer is back with his customary look at the possible inactives for the Cowboys' upcoming game. He's pretty sure that Anthony Spencer and Darrion Weems (both injured) won't play, and that Dustin Vaughan and Donald Hawkins will ride the pine. He adds Devin Street, Korey Toomer and Terrell McClain as players he's less sure about.

Mothership Writers Share Their Game 1 Gut Feeling -
Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, and David Helman all see the 49ers winning today while Bryan Broaddus talks about Cole Beasley without doing what the article title indicated he would.

Cowboys 'Secret': Carter As Spy Vs. Niners? - Mike Fisher,
Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan that Bruce Carter was going to be used as a spy against 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. To which Mike Fisher adds:

I made the mistake of spending way too much time treating seriously the pursuit of this angle. I should have known that it was just Mr. Jones being "Radio Jerry." ... that highly entertaining persona who often double-talks his way through X's and O's.

Behind Enemy Lines:

Kurt Warner: '49ers miss playoffs' in 2014 | CSN Bay Area
Kurt Warner does not believe this year's San Francisco 49ers team is good enough to make the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers face many distractions as season opens - San Jose Mercury News
Ray McDonald's arrest, Aldon Smith's suspension, Alex Boone's long holdout, NaVarro Bowman's injury, and the absence of a contract extension for head coach Jim Harbaugh create additional tension for control freaks Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke.

That's why Sunday's season-opener in AT&T Stadium doesn't quite feel like a curtain-raiser for the 49ers. It feels like the beginning of long and unpredictable struggle.

49ers Say McDonald to Play in Opener Despite Arrest - Bloomberg
The 49ers do not believe in domestic violence, but they do believe in due process.

Jonathan Martin Set to Fill in for Ailing Anthony Davis at Right Tackle -
Sunday will mark Martin’s first NFL game since Oct. 27, after which he left the Dolphins amid bullying concerns, as right tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) has been ruled out of Sunday’s season-opener.

49ers vs. Cowboys: Michael Wilhoite is a capable backup, but Dallas will see him as a liability - Niners Nation
James Brady of Niners Nation believes linebacker Michael Wilhoite will be solid in place of NaVorro Bowman, but als expects opposing offenses to see him as a liability to attack, and expects exactly that from the Cowboys on Sunday.

So how will Wilhoite perform against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday? Well, for starters, he'll have his work cut out for him. Dallas may have a historically awful defense, but Tony Romo commands a deceptively strong offense with a strong running game and strong wide receivers. With Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar, there's a chance Wilhoite might get matched up against a very tough receiver.

Fortunately, he probably won't have to shadow Witten around, as that duty will likely fall on Willis. Wilhoite was notably burned by Antonio Gates in the third preseason game, but I don't think anybody expected him to be able to go 1-on-1 with Gates. No, if Wilhoite goes up against guys like Witten, he's doing it alongside someone else. Dallas will try and exploit him in the passing game, but I think the 49ers will do what they can do ensure they have enough defensive backs on the field.

Right Guard Alex Boone added to 49ers' roster, likely to start against Cowboys - San Jose Mercury News
Boone ended an offseason-long holdout Sunday when he agreed to a restructured contract. He practiced all week on a roster exemption. Boone is widely expected to start, but if he doesn't Joe Looney likely would, as was the case through the exhibition season.

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