Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith is switching from No. 54 to No. 9 for the upcoming season.
The No. 9 jersey was worn by former quarterback Tony Romo through his 14 years in Dallas and hasn’t been issued to a Cowboys player since he retired in 2017.
Smith, 25, wore No. 9 in high school and at Notre Dame, but switched to No. 54 in the NFL because the digits added up to nine.
A 2016 second-round pick, Smith briefly overlapped with Romo in Dallas.
Smith, a 2019 Pro Bowl selection, has played in all 64 games in the four seasons since he sat out 2016 recovering from torn ACL and MCL injuries he suffered in his final college game.
Changing numbers on short notice requires players to buy out existing inventory of their previous number, which cost the linebacker a sum in the mid-six-figures, according to ESPN.
Smith signed a six-year, $64 million extension with the Cowboys in 2019.
The NFL policy on uniform numbers for linebackers was changed during the offseason, clearing the way for the defenders to wear any number from 1-59 or from 90-99.
The numbers of former Cowboys greats Bob Lilly (74), Roger Staubach (12), Troy Aikman (8) and Emmitt Smith (22) have never been re-issued.
Safety Donovan Wilson is also switching from No. 37 to No. 6.
–Field Level Media
Former Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo is part of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class that will be fully announced Monday.
Romo was calling Sunday’s NFC wild-card game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears when CBS broadcast partner Jim Nantz congratulated him on the honor.
“It’s an honor. I was shocked,” Romo said, adding that a commemorative football from the College Football Hall of Fame arrived at his house Saturday. “My kids grabbed it and started playing with it. I was like, ‘Hold on. Give me that back. I think that one might be important.’”
The 2021 class, consisting of 11 players and two coaches, will be announced Monday during the 12 p.m. ET edition of ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Romo won the 2002 Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
He saw limited action as a redshirt freshman in 1999 before becoming the starting quarterback and leading the Panthers to three consecutive Football Championship Series playoff appearances. He was a three-time first-team All-American and is the only player in Ohio Valley Conference history to be the league’s player of the year three times.
He passed for 8,212 yards and 85 touchdowns at Eastern Illinois. After not being drafted, he spent 14 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, passing for 34,183 yards and earning Pro Bowl honors four times.
–Field Level Media
Tony Romo will not call Sunday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams for CBS because of COVID-19 protocols, the network said on Saturday.
Romo will be replaced by Boomer Esiason, who will call the game alongside lead announcer Jim Nantz and reporter Tracy Wolfson for the Week 17 game scheduled for 4:25 p.m.
It is unclear if Romo tested positive for coronavirus or had been in close contact with someone who has. Numerous networks have allowed broadcasters to call games from their homes during the pandemic. However, CBS said it was uncertain if it could have all of the necessary equipment set up in Romo’s home in time for the game.
Romo, 40, is the highest-paid NFL analyst, as the former Cowboys quarterback signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with the network in February.
–Field Level Media
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the same huge problem: they’re missing their star quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Both teams have already felt the pain: the Cowboys lost last week’s game to the Atlanta Falcons and last night’s to the Saints, and the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a heartbreaker in the Thursday night game after failing to convert two fourth downs.
The two injuries are arguably the most devastating losses in the league. But which team is hurt more by the absence of their quarterback? Let’s break it down.
Who’s the Better Quarterback?
Both Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo are excellent quarterbacks, so this is a tough one to answer. Romo led the league in passer rating last season and yards per pass attempt last season, but Roethlisberger led it in passing yards and long passes. Romo has a statistical edge in most categories over the past few years, but he also plays more games in domes and favorable conditions. Observers generally peg Roethlisberger as the better QB (they dislike Romo’s interceptions, which always seem to be thrown at the worst possible time), but we’re going to call it a wash – both are consistently excellent guys, arguably top-five QBs in most seasons.
How Bad Are the Injuries?
Both of these injuries are brutal, but one will take longer to recover from than the other will. Ben Roethlisberger, despite taking a hit that looked like a season-ender, only took damage to his MCL (his ACL was spared). He should be back in 4-6 weeks, though the Steelers aren’t being very clear about that timetable. Tony Romo’s broken clavicle requires a longer rehabbing period: he’s out until at least late November. That’s eight weeks. Thanks to the Cowboys’ bye week, Romo will only miss seven games, but that’s still at least one more than Roethsliberger will miss. Romo’s injury is a repeat of one earlier in his career, and it’s an upper-body injury. We’ll give Romo the dubious honor of winning this round.
Backing Things Up
Brandon Weeden is a solid backup for the Cowboys, but we’re going to give the Steelers the edge at the position. It’s worth remembering that Brandon Weeden was older than the average draft pick when he was nabbed by the Browns in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s not a raw talent anymore – he’s 31 years old, and this may be as good as he gets. Vick may be past his prime at 35, but at least he had one.
Both backups will have some support. A great offensive line helped Romo have a career year last year; this year, they’ll help give Weeden some time to figure things out. The Steelers have incredible offensive weapons, including RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, which will make things a bit easier on Vick.
Margin for Error
Brandon Weeden and Michael Vick are not going to lead their teams to Super Bowls. Their jobs are the same: limit the damage until the superstar comes back. We’ve already mentioned that Weeden has a longer period to weather. But does that mean that his team is more at risk?
Michael Vick is expected to start only 4-6 games for the Steelers, but those 4-6 may be more crucial than the 7 games that Weeden has to start. That’s because the Steelers have two problems that Dallas doesn’t: a tough division race, and a brutal schedule.
The Cowboys, at 2-1 at the time of this writing, lead their division. The Giants keep beating themselves, the new-look Eagles aren’t working out, and the Redskins – well, they’re the Redskins. The Steelers were 2-1 prior to their Thursday night loss, but they weren’t in first even before the Ravens beat them: the Bengals, at 3-0, had that locked up. The Bengals are much better than any of the Cowboys’ NFC East competition, and they’ll get a crack at the Steelers on November 1, a game that Roethlisberger is likely to miss.
On top of that, the Cowboys have a chance to make up ground fast once Romo is back: the Cowboys have games against the Panthers, Redskins (twice), and Jets. The Steelers have no such luck: Ben will deal with the Seahawks, Colts, Bengals, Broncos, and Ravens (again) when he gets back. At least he gets the Browns twice, too.
Romo may be out longer, but Roethlisberger is a bigger loss. Without Big Ben, the Steelers are likely to slide out of contention entirely. Both quarterbacks will return, but in all likelihood, only Tony Romo will play into the postseason.