- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tony Romo has been taking it one Jessica Simpson question at a time this week, which is how it goes if you are the quarterback of the Cowboys and you and the Oscar-worthy actress spent last weekend together at a Mexico resort.

Simpson qualifies as a distraction in the obsessive-compulsive subculture of football, especially if she is wearing those tight short shorts she made famous in the gripping drama The Dukes of Hazzard.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips encouraged the Cowboys to get away from football last weekend, and Romo, ever the team player, followed those instructions with conviction.

Romo and Simpson decided to travel to Cabo San Lucas, joined there by tight end Jason Witten and his wife.

Not that anyone in Dallas is concerned about Witten possibly being distracted by either his wife or Simpson.

Football teams, of course, hate distractions almost as much as they hate the reporters who quiz them about distractions.

And there are few greater distractions than a getaway trip to Cabo San Lucas with a mega-watt celebrity in tow and a phalanx of paparazzi in hot pursuit.

It almost would have been better if Romo had culled from the NFL relaxation playbook and spent the weekend at a strip bar and made it rain, the euphemism for dumping thousands of dollars on the stage, whereupon the performing artists, bouncers and clientele go absolutely bonkers.

Angry words are soon exchanged, handguns are drawn and people get hurt.

But at least Fido is left out of it.

Romo is coming off a worrisome December, when he fell into a funk and the Cowboys stumbled to a 2-2 record. Romo threw five interceptions and only one touchdown in the last three games.

The unsettling finish coincided with the emergence of Romo and Simpson as a serious item.

Whenever Simpson showed up to the stadium, she was granted as much air time as Romo, although she was not the one throwing the interceptions.

There is a growing belief in Dallas that Romo started reading Simpson’s body language more than the various defensive sets, which contributed to his struggles.

It also could be that Romo merely had a couple of bad games, and it is no more complex than that.

It happens to every quarterback except Tom Brady.

That brings to two the number of sub-par Decembers in the Romo portfolio.

Worse, he mishandled the long snap from center in the playoffs last season, which led to the retirement of Bill Parcells.

So the Cowboys-Giants meeting Sunday is a big game for Romo.

If he mishandles another long snap or throws a couple of interceptions and the Cowboys lose, he just might have to return to Cabo San Lucas and stay there until training camp.

That might not be entirely fair. But no one ever said life was fair.

I mean, it is not as if Simpson would be interested in Romo if he were a cashier clerk at a department store.

At least Romo is not carrying the psychological baggage attributed to Eli Manning, who is guilty of not being Peyton.

The younger Manning does have a tendency to throw to the wrong team, which inevitably leads to this doltish look on his face, as if he just fell off the back of a hay truck and found himself in a Giants uniform.

The Cowboys defeated the Giants in their two regular-season games, and you know what all the football experts say about one team defeating another team three times in one season. Why, it is almost next to impossible.

In the end, the Jessica-Peyton factors could cancel each other out, and Simpson”s publicist has let it be known that she will be unable to attend the game because of a previous recording commitment.

Fans of the Cowboys figure that is worth three points to their team, four if she was planning to attend the game in her short shorts.

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