Tony Gutierrez, AP
IRVING, Texas — Tony Romo picked up more than a six-time Pro Bowl guard who can help in pass protection and try to revive a comatose running game.
The signing of 36-year-old Brian Waters this week means the Dallas quarterback is no longer the oldest player on the roster.
"I didn't know that but now I do and I am glad he's here," Romo said, smiling.
Oh, there are still plenty of signs that Romo is an elder statesman at 33 as he gets set for the opener of his seventh full season as the starter Sunday night against the New York Giants.
For example, receiver Dez Bryant found himself deflecting talk of an MVP season after such a prediction from a former Cowboys No. 88, Michael Irvin.
Where did Bryant deflect it? Well, to the guy who might as well have a corner office with a downtown view on the top floor of a high-rise.
"I think MVPs goes to quarterbacks because they're the boss, the CEO on the field," said Bryant, who is coming off career highs of 1,382 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. "And we're just out there to get him where he's supposed to go."
There's been a lot of that kind of talk about Romo since he signed the richest contract in franchise history in March — a six-year, $108 million deal with more guaranteed money than Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco.
Romo missed all the offseason workouts after having a cyst removed from his back, but he was always on the field and frequently engaged in dialogue.
During preseason games, he yelled at rookies here and there and slammed his helmet on the sideline during an embarrassing flurry of turnovers.
Maybe his answers aren't loaded with details when he's asked about how much more involved he is behind the scenes at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters. But he's not keeping it a secret, either.
Romo has a new play-caller in Bill Callahan — taking over for coach Jason Garrett — and the two have had "a lot of meeting time," Romo says.
"He's got a great understanding through his experiences of football and what it takes to win games and on top of that we have great communication to the things that I like to see and things that we're going to put together," Romo said.
The Cowboys are trying to respect one of their elders by trying to take it easier on Romo. He set franchise records last year in yards passing (4,903), completions (425) and attempts (648) almost out of necessity because Dallas had the worst per-game rushing average in team history.
Romo also was sacked a career-high 36 times for the second straight year. It's no coincidence that he also matched a career high with 19 interceptions.
"Tony's been awfully good at being able to make a lot of plays and also not make bad plays," coach Jason Garrett said. "But like every quarterback who ever played when the burden was too big on them, sometimes you try to do too much and you're not able to take care of the ball the way you need to. It's a key piece of winning."
Bryant was serious about talking up Romo as an MVP — he wasn't just kissing up to the boss. Besides, everyone knows owner Jerry Jones runs things at Valley Ranch.
"I honestly feel like if we do everything we're supposed to do, he'll get it," Bryant said. "If he gets it, I already know, hey, I was part of it. And that's just as good to me."
You see. Bryant's already trying to help out the "old man."
NOTES: DE Anthony Spencer missed practice again Thursday, saying he had a recent setback with swelling in his surgically repaired left knee. But he said he was still holding out hope of playing Sunday night. ... Ron Leary (knee) was a full participant again and the second-year appears set to be a starter at left guard in his first NFL game.
AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org/
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler
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