JASON GARRETT'S bio doesn't say if the Dallas Cowboys' coach was on the debate team at Princeton, but Garrett certainly held his rhetorical ground yesterday during a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters, their ranks bolstered by a couple of national media folk who happened to be at NovaCare for the buildup to Sunday evening's battle for the NFC East title.
Garrett first trotted out what he has been saying all week: That quarterback Tony Romo is day-to-day with a back injury, that Kyle Orton has been leading the Cowboys through practice. ESPN and the NFL Network have reported that Romo will not play against the Eagles, but Garrett and the Cowboys have not confirmed this.
Reporters pressed for more. How is Romo feeling?
"I think he's trying to get better, each and every day," Garrett revealed. "You'll have to ask him specifically. It probably comes and goes a little bit."
(Sure thing, Jason, will do. Would you mind giving us Tony's number? We seem to have misplaced it.)
"Hopefully, it gets better as the week goes on."
Why the day-to-day designation (even though Romo isn't practicing or even attending meetings this week, and you signed another quarterback, Jon Kitna, to back up Orton?
"Particularly with an injury like his, so much of it is how you feel, and how you respond to the treatment," Garrett said.
How do you balance Romo's health against the importance of this game?
"We would never compromise any player's health, really for the short term or the long term," Garrett said.
Does this mean, if you haven't already ruled out Romo, that you're satisfied playing Sunday wouldn't affect his long-term health?
"You're gaining more and more information, each and every day," Garrett parried. "I don't know that you say, 'Boom! This is it, this is what it is, this is what we're doing,' immediately after it happens. I think so much of it is, 'How's he feeling the next day . . . we've done this kind of treatment, how's he responding to it?' . . . His feedback is a really important to this whole process. There's a medical evaluation, but there's also 'How is he feeling? How functional is he?' All those things come into play, and those things can change over the course of a day, over the course of a week."
Sooo, Romo isn't in the meetings, discussing the game plan, etc? But he still might play?
"He's been around our facility. Like a lot of injured players, they spend their time getting the treatment. They try to learn the football as they go, but sometimes, it's not quite as important for them to be in the meeting as it is for them to do everything they can to get themselves healthy and ready for the game," Garrett said. "He's certainly seen the game plan. No question about that."
If the game were held today, could Romo play?
"That's one of those hypotheticals you don't want to get into," Garrett said. "The game is Sunday."
The Eagles have been using tight end James Casey as more of a fullback lately, especially down near the goal line. They were having problems with teams bringing defensive linemen or linebackers from the backside and messing up running plays. Now, it's common to see Casey go charging across the formation to pick off that pursuer.
"I love doing that kind of stuff. I've played fullback in the past, and I'm used to running full speed at guys . . . I did a bunch of it when I was at Houston," Casey said. "At first it's a little bit [daunting]. You've got to make sure you don't hit the quarterback, you've got to make sure you don't trip over the linemen, you've got to make sure you get on the right guys. But now, I'm comfortable with it . . . The main thing is playing fast and being really physical, because they're going to be coming fast, right down at you. Last game, we ran it a lot, so eventually they started realizing it was coming. When they know it's coming, they're going to be coming fast, you're going to be coming fast. There are going to be some collisions . . . you try to get lower than they are."
Pro Bowl attendees will be announced tonight at 9 on the NFL Network . . . Safety Earl Wolff said he hopes to play Sunday, and he has been a full practice participant this week, but his knee is sore . . . Colt Anderson (knee) has not practiced and is unlikely to play . . . Backup center Julian Vandervelde missed practice with a back problem, and left guard Even Mathis, who probably would be next in line to snap, missed with illness, the Eagles said. "I was attacked by ninjas," Vandervelde explained. "Tweaked it. It's fine" . . . Nick Foles said the biggest-stakes game he has played in previously would be the Texas State 5A high school championship in 2006, in which his Austin Westlake team lost, 43-29, to Southlake Carroll . . . The Eagles, with 3,881 passing yards and 2,429 rushing yards, can become the second team in NFL history to amass 4,000 passing yards and 2,400 rushing yards in the same season.