The first time Tony Romo set up to pass, he had to twist slightly and move forward in the pocket before zipping a throw to Dez Bryant.
When Romo botched a handoff for a fumble a few plays later, the Dallas quarterback found himself hanging onto Baltimore's Courtney Upshaw with one hand, unsuccessfully trying to prevent a touchdown.
The good news, following surgery for a herniated disk, is that Romo's back held up.
Now he and the Cowboys have to figure out how much he'll play Saturday night in an exhibition game at Miami. That figures to be his last action before the opener Sept. 7 against San Francisco.
"It just feels like playing football," Romo said after a 37-30 preseason loss to the Ravens on Saturday night. "Anytime you come off surgery, I understand the predictions, the process you're going through. Everyone's going to have them. Some people come back stronger, better. Some people come back early, they've got to take more time and then get better. Each guy's different."
He looked like the same Romo to those around him. This was his first game since getting injured and staying in for a season-saving win at Washington before missing the finale against Philadelphia, which beat the Cowboys in a battle for the playoffs.
"To me, he looked comfortable," coach Jason Garrett said. "I thought that first third down where had to climb the pocket and deliver the ball to Dez, I thought that looked a lot like Tony Romo."
Romo played two series because the first one ended prematurely when he and DeMarco Murray missed each other on a handoff. His 14th and final play was a 31-yard scoring toss to Bryant, who easily beat the defender for the touchdown.
Romo finished 4 of 5 for 80 yards, Bryant had three catches for 59 yards and Murray accounted for 45 of the 83 yards on the touchdown drive.
"We all know what Tony can do," Bryant said. "He likes to win and he wants to win, so there's no need for him to really be out here in the preseason because we need him in the long run."
Actually, Romo slightly disagrees. He skipped the preseason opener at San Diego and is likely to sit for the finale at home against Houston. But he will play against the Dolphins. It's just a matter of how long, and he figures it will be a little longer than his outing against the Ravens.
"When you play a game on the road in the preseason, I think that is very important," said Romo, who took frequent breaks from practices during training camp in California. "I think you're kidding yourself, as players, if you think you can just show up on game one of the regular season without playing in the preseason."
Romo doesn't have to show owner Jerry Jones anything else.
"I'm convinced that he can do what he does," Jones said. "But still, he'll want that just to be sharp and work with Dez and work with (Jason) Witten. We'll see some of those guys as we go forward these next two games. We need to. When I say we need to, that's just an opportunity for us to get ready for San Francisco."
The 34-year-old Romo, getting ready for his eighth full season as the starter, wasn't afraid to hold the ball. On his only incompletion, he spent several seconds in the pocket before a reverse pivot into the open field. He eventually threw across the field to tight end James Hanna, who couldn't hold a slightly low throw.
"Yeah, I felt like I got hit enough," Romo said. "I didn't think about it. You just play. You don't think about, 'Oh, I got hit on that play.'"
Now it's on to the next game.
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