Tony Romo defies those who question his mettle

Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, is orchestrating the play - and wins - despite playing injured, with a cracked rib and a punctured lung.

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It is easy, from the comfort of our couches, to doubt the toughness of NFL players when they go down on the field with an injury. It also is wrong to doubt them, in most cases. (See: Jay Cutler, Bears, 2011 play-offs.)

Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, was never known as a man hesitant to play hurt, but he was often viewed by the public as being a player perhaps a bit soft and unassertive in crunch time.

Two weeks ago, Romo suffered a cracked rib and punctured lung while playing against the San Francisco 49ers. Anyone who has suffered a rib injury knows how debilitating it can be.

The simple act of breathing becomes torture.

Romo, however, finished the first half, was injected with painkillers at intermission, put on a Kevlar vest under his jersey and returned in the third quarter to help Dallas beat the 49ers.

Same routine, before last Monday night's game against the Washington Redskins, and he led the Cowboys to another victory - despite being hit hard seven times.

No player in his condition, who is not physically fine, should be blamed for choosing to sit out for a week. Or a month. Or two. But Romo will soldier on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, protected by a vest and more painkillers, as he seeks to stretch the Cowboys' winning run to three games.

Nearly everyone in the NFL plays hurt, at some point. But not everyone plays when they are injured.

Romo does, and he deserves an upgraded image as a player of fortitude.