Romo will be Cowboys starter Sunday at Carolina

Thursday, October 26th 2006, 6:40 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Drew Bledsoe said he's going to support Tony Romo, even if he disagrees with coach Bill Parcells' decision to bench him in favor of the fourth-year pro.

Bledsoe's demotion became official Wednesday when the Dallas Cowboys coach said Romo, who took over at quarterback in the second half Monday night, will make his first career start Sunday night at Carolina.

``I'm going to continue to be a leader on this team, continue to support the team, support Tony in his job,'' said Bledsoe, in his 14th season. ``It's just a very new, very different and very unfamiliar role for me.''

Parcells is doing something he rarely has done _ changing quarterbacks in midseason. The coach often has been loyal to veteran quarterbacks, including 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde through a 6-10 Cowboys season two years ago.

But, this time, Parcells is benching the player he drafted No. 1 for the New England Patriots in 1993.

``It's a very, very disappointing situation for me, but I can't go back and change it,'' Bledsoe said. ``Obviously, I would like to be the guy still, and I really in my heart of hearts believe that I give us the best chance to win.''

Bledsoe threw a critical interception near the goal line in a 36-22 loss to the New York Giants when the Cowboys (3-3) had a chance to take the lead in a game to determine first place in the NFC East. Bledsoe already had been sacked four times, once for a safety.

Romo threw three interceptions, one on his first play and another returned 96 yards for a touchdown. But he still showed he could be effective. Romo scrambled and completed 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and flashed more footwork running for a 2-point conversion.

``Deep down, I feel like Tony is a different kind of quarterback than Bledsoe,'' Parcells said. ``And, maybe, we might be able to put some of those abilities to work. ... Maybe we can alter our circumstances for the better.''

Undrafted out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, Romo never had thrown a pass before this season. His only two passes before Monday were a pair of completions in the previous game, with a TD to Terrell Owens in the closing minutes of a 34-6 victory over the Houston Texans.

Romo will be the ninth starting quarterback for the Cowboys since Hall of Famer Troy Aikman retired after the 2001 season. Romo didn't appear in the locker room Wednesday.

``Any time you do something like this, it's not without a lot of consideration,'' Parcells said. ``I've been thinking about it for some time. ... Hopefully, maybe as the team is comprised right now, he might be able to do a couple of things that assist us.''

In Dallas' three victories, Bledsoe had six touchdown passes and one interception. But those have all been against teams with losing records. Against playoff contenders Jacksonville, Philadelphia and the Giants, he has one TD and seven INTs.

Parcells told Bledsoe about his demotion during a 30-minute meeting Wednesday morning.

``It's not the way I would like to see it done, but Bill was honest with me and sat down and we had a conversation about it,'' said Bledsoe, who has started 193 NFL games. ``I'm preparing this week as if I could be back on the field right away. Whether I see the field again, I don't know.''

Bledsoe has hinted that Dallas _ and his reunion with Parcells that began last season _ will be his last NFL stop. He showed no interest in New England or Buffalo of being a mentor or an insurance policy.

``I'm sure he doesn't want to back up, but that doesn't mean you're jumping off the ship,'' Parcells said.

Bledsoe insisted Wednesday that he didn't consider walking away because of the demotion. He also said he would ``do the right thing'' for the rest of this season. He didn't say if this would be his final season.

Terry Glenn, the Cowboys' leading receiver with 29 catches, said the team has confidence in Romo and likes his mobility. But it's still a difficult move personally for Glenn, who spent the first six seasons of his career in New England with Bledsoe and has become a favorite target.

``Well, you know Bledsoe is my guy. I wish things weren't going the way they are, but obviously the coaching staff sees something,'' Glenn said. ``I'm just out here playing. I want to win. Whoever's out there, let's make plays and let's try to win.''

Parcells took the unusual step in the preseason of allowing Romo to play an entire game. But Romo's only action in 20 regular-season games before this year were as a holder on kicks, and one time when he took a knee on the final drive of a game to run out the clock.

That limited game experience doesn't seem to bother Romo's teammates, who like his swagger.

``The guys believe in him,'' receiver Patrick Crayton said. ``His mobility, man. He's an improviser sometimes when he gets out there. You kind of expect the ball to come to you on every play.''