The Associated Press
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Tony Romo is ruining his reputation as a celebrity quarterback.
Since training camp opened, Romo has avoided the sloppy mistakes that trigger debates about his recklessness and leadership. There hasn't been a single squabble with a receiver. And if he has a new Hollywood hottie in his life, he's kept their canoodling out of the tabloids.
Romo is all about football these days, and the Dallas Cowboys can only hope things keep going this smoothly during the season.
Through two preseason games, Romo has yet to throw an interception, lose a fumble or take a sack. Sure, it's only been seven drives and it's not like he's faced ferocious pressure, but at least he's off to a good start, showing the poise and patience the team is expecting - and remembering to keep two hands on the ball when he scrambles.
It's boring stuff, especially for a guy who rode to stardom by taking his chances and enjoying his share of victories. But sticking to the fundamentals can help a team win playoff games, something the Cowboys haven't done since 1996.
"Obviously the way I was before wasn't getting the job done to the extent to the goal you want to accomplish," Romo said. "So you just keep going and keep going and hopefully you are able to accomplish that one day.I can see improvement."
Over two games, Romo has led the Cowboys to three touchdowns and a missed field goal. That's a points-worthy drives in four of his seven series. He's 22 of 30 for 228 yards, with a quarterback rating of 106.
"Either you are trying to get better or you are content as a player," Romo said. "I am not content. I don't think this team is. We are striving to be a team that we hope can make everybody excited or have an exciting time watching us play this season. We are enjoying it."
Perhaps the best sign of Romo's new demeanor is how he's spreading around the ball. Seven players already have caught his passes, plus he's thrown to three others.
Romo's willingness to look at all his receivers, tight ends and running backs (even a backup fullback) shows he's snapped out of the must-throw-to-T.O. mindset that sometimes doomed Dallas during the Terrell Owens days.
Taking Owens out of the equation obviously removed a big threat, but it's helped broaden the Cowboys' plans.
They will be going with more two-tight end formations because of how Martellus Bennett has developed in his second year. They also have three proven running backs in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and plan to get all of them involved as runners and receivers. The receiving corps, led by Roy Williams, lacks a T.O.-caliber player, but should benefit from defenses worrying about Jones, Bennett and Jason Witten.
All those options should make Dallas less predictable. It's up to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to dream up a variety of plays, and then it's up to Romo to pull them off.
If Romo does, no one will question his weight, his work ethic, his passion for the game or his love life, all of which were cross-examined in the wake of last season's December meltdown, when the Cowboys lost three of their last four games and didn't make the playoffs.
"I feel like each year I play this game I get better just because you work at it, you think about it, you try and correct it," said Romo, who is coming off his first non-Pro Bowl season since becoming the full-time starter in 2006. "I had a friend tell me once, 'You just keep getting better and everything will take care of itself.'"
Now back at their Valley Ranch headquarters, Romo feels good about how things went in training camp in San Antonio. He likes the tone that was set during a controversy-free month.
"Everything was just football 24-7," Romo said. "I think that's the way we want to work around here."
It's a change, but it might be one for the better.