|Cowboys-Packers at Lambeau big for Rodgers, Romo|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 18 September 2008 10:12|
But that's how long Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers had to wait before getting their shot at starting in the NFL. Now both young quarterbacks will lead 2-0 teams into Lambeau Field on Sunday for a prime-time showcase that represents another big step for Rodgers and a homecoming for Romo.
The Cowboys beat the Packers at Texas Stadium last year. But Rodgers nearly led the Packers to a comeback victory after Brett Favre struggled and was injured, showing that he just might be a viable successor to the wily ol' riverboat gambler.
``I think last year, he was going to be a good quarterback,'' Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said of Rodgers. ``And this year, he is.''
The Packers' decision to end the prolonged distraction caused by Favre's unretirement saga by trading him to the New York Jets was a painful way to start training camp. The ordeal left fans stamping their feet and scratching their heads - but not for long. Rodgers' play in the first two games has given second-guessers very little to criticize.
Rodgers is gradually playing his way out of Favre's shadow in a style more akin to sound financial planning than high-stakes poker. Rodgers strives for efficiency and consistency, showing an ability to make big plays when possible but taking care of the ball above all.
His record so far: four touchdowns, zero interceptions, two wins. Rodgers even threw in a few scrambles for first downs along the way, adding a new dimension to the Packers' offense.
And he's not dwelling on his big moment in Dallas last year.
``That was last year,'' Rodgers said. ``We've moved on.''
Romo, meanwhile, grew up in Wisconsin looking up to Favre. And it shows.
Romo's freewheeling ways - on and off the field - and aw-shucks persona make him far more Favre-like than the man who actually replaced the three-time MVP.
The numbers are there, too. Romo is coming off a 312-yard performance in a victory over Philadelphia on Monday night, with three touchdowns, an interception and a fumble.
``He doesn't get rattled,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``That's obviously very important. Just in the game Monday night, he had a couple bumps in the road and responded very positively. He gives them a chance every time he's under center, and that's what you're looking for in your quarterback.''
x a flat tire last week. Can a blue jeans commercial be far off?
``I take my job and take what I do in football very serious, but I don't take myself that serious,'' Romo said. ``I don't think I'm that important of an individual. I think I'm blessed with the ability to play a game and I think that I'm doing some good things in that. But I also think outside of that, it's not as if I'm someone who is changing the landscape of anything that's of a relevance that's really super-important in this world.''
This is Romo's third visit to Lambeau Field, a place the Cowboys have never won.
Romo was at Lambeau as a player for the Cowboys' loss in 2004 - he didn't become a starter until midway through the 2006 season - and remembers attending a preseason game as a teenager. But Romo doesn't seem particularly giddy about returning to his home state as a starter.
``It was fun to go against the Packers, a team you watched growing up, and fun to go against Favre,'' Romo said of last year's game. ``But I'm getting a little older now, so you've been around certain different situations again. And it will still be fun, but I'm not in my second or first year anymore. So I think I'm obviously a wily veteran now.''
And even as a (wink, wink) veteran player who has seen it all, Romo can't imagine what it's like to be in Rodgers' shoes.
``I don't think it was ever quite like that in a sense,'' Romo said. ``I can relate to waiting, being behind, trying to get better as a player and (being) ready when your opportunity came about. But that was a little more than I went through, I think.''
Romo has the tabloids and paparazzi; which superstar is he dating these days? And do you think she's ruining the team? Rodgers, meanwhile, was ruthlessly heckled by little kids during the Favre saga. But he still says Romo has it worse.
``His life has been scrutinized, I think, as much as anybody's, and I think he does a great job balancing his personal life and his professional life,'' Rodgers said. ``And he's a hell of a football player.''
Dealing with scrutiny is something the two discussed at a golf tournament in the offseason.
``Tony's a very good guy,'' Rodgers said. ``It was a lot of fun being with him, to dialog with him about being a first-year player and the opportunities. We had similar situations: He waited for years before his opportunity, and I waited three for mine. So he's done a great job, and I hope to be able to be mentioned in the same sentence more frequently.''
Rodgers and Romo agree that sitting on the bench for a while is beneficial to a young quarterback's development, even if both had the itch to play earlier.
``I was more raw,'' said Romo, who signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2003. ``I think Aaron probably came in the league probably at a higher level than I did. I wouldn't have been very good my first year. He might have been good, I don't know.''
Rodgers, a first-round pick in 2005, wanted to play right away. But in hindsight, he's glad he didn't.
``Would I have played well in the first year? Probably not, to be honest,'' Rodgers said. ``I really felt like the second year, I started to get it, but the third year, I had it down.''
Now Rodgers' hard work in the obscurity of practices and offseason workouts is paying off. But McCarthy wants to make sure outside expectations don't get out of hand.
``He's off to a good start,'' McCarthy said. ``We're only two weeks into it. There's a ton of football ahead of us. Obviously he's put together two good games from a performance standpoint, but handling the everyday No. 1 spot, it's different. It's a bigger responsibility.''