- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2008

As football injuries go, there’s nothing worse than a broken pinkie. I mean, it just sounds so … pink. You can call it your “little finger” if you want, or even your “small finger,” but everyone knows it’s your pinkie. And real men don’t miss games because of injured pinkies. It says so in “The Idiot’s Guide to Real Manliness.”

That is, unless you’re a quarterback and the pinkie happens to be on your throwing hand. Then, you might have to lay out for a while and let your damaged digit heal. What are you gonna do, be a tough guy and have the finger cut off - like 49ers safety Ronnie Lott did back in ‘85?

Besides, it was different for Lott. His job didn’t require him to thread passes between defenders while being chased by overgrown linemen. He merely had to make receivers pay for catching those impudent passes. This can be done just as easily with nine fingers as with 10. Or so it says in “Real Manliness for Dummies.”

Anyway, Tony Romo, the Cowboys‘ pinup quarterback, could miss as many as four games because of a broken pinkie, and, well, it just underlines one of the problems with the owners’ plan to lengthen the season. More games, after all, mean more broken pinkies - more broken body parts of all sorts.

Interestingly, the Barons of Football aren’t likely to add a 17th or 18th game next year, according to commissioner Roger Goodell. They’ve discussed it at this week’s meetings, he says, but don’t seem ready to move on it. Perhaps it’s because of the Broken Pinkie Factor, which has been running particularly high this season.

Romo is just the latest QB to get sidelined. Tom Brady and John Kitna are already done for the year, and Matt Hasselbeck and Carson Palmer reportedly will be inactive again this week. Then there are Aaron Rodgers, Trent Edwards, Vince Young, Brian Griese and Matt Schaub, all of whom have been knocked out of games - and Peyton Manning, who we just learned had two surgeries, not one, on his left knee during the offseason.

Any way you look at it, there has been an unusual amount of upheaval at the quarterback spot for this early in the season. By the end of this weekend, a quarter of the teams - eight of 32 - will have lost their QB for at least one game because of injury. Three others, meanwhile, will have switched QBs voluntarily. And again, this is only Week 7.

You can’t blame an owner for thinking that the league is totally up for grabs this year. Which is why you can’t blame Jerry Jones for acquiring Roy Williams from the Lions at the trading deadline, even though the price was steep (his Nos. 1, 3 and 6 draft picks in ‘09). If the Cowboys can muddle through without Romo for the next month, Williams could well be the guy who gets them back in the Super Bowl.

Jones has apparently decided the only way he’s going to win another Lombardi Trophy this season is if his club outscores everybody. And there’s some logic to that. With Adam Jones suspended again and two other starting defensive backs ailing, Dallas is awfully vulnerable to the pass right now. And it wasn’t exactly devastating in that department to begin with.

Some are comparing the deal for Williams to the 2000 deal for Joey Galloway, which didn’t work out so well, but that seems a stretch. For one thing, Galloway was considerably more expensive, costing the Cowboys two No. 1s. For another, he was a bigger risk. He had sat out half the previous season in an ugly contract dispute with the Seahawks, and there was a question about one of his knees. (Or so Norv Turner told me when explaining why the Redskins opted for Michael Westbrook over him.)

Williams is two years younger than Galloway was when he came to Dallas (26 to Joey’s 28). He’s also sturdier. While Galloway was a 5-foot-11, 197-pound speed receiver, one of the fastest in the game, Williams is a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder along the lines of Terrell Owens. Opponents can double-cover one T.O., but how do they double-cover two T.O.s?

That’s not to say Williams, a decade from now, will have as many touchdowns as Owens (134 and counting). But under optimal circumstances - and the Dallas offense fits that description with Romo, Jason Witten, Marion Barber et al - he might come close. Think of Williams and T.O. as the NFC East version of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. (Unless, of course, Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas become the NFC East version of the Cardinals duo.)

Returning to Romo, Brett Favre is said to have given him tips on how to cope with a broken finger (Brett having played with a broken thumb a few years ago). So perhaps Tony will be back on the field sooner rather than later - especially if he rubs a few drops of Favre’s Magic Elixir on the affected area. (In fact, he participated briefly in the walkthrough portion of the Cowboys’ practice Wednesday.)

Brett must be a fount of medical information. In addition to the broken thumb, he has worked around a concussion, a sprained knee, a bad back and assorted other ailments during his consecutive games streak, now at 280 (counting the playoffs). But there’s only one indestructible quarterback in the NFL. The others just try to survive week by week. Last week Romo didn’t make it. The week before it was Griese. This week it will probably be somebody else.



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