IRVING, Texas -- --Quarterback Tony Romo, who missed OTAs because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back, is not expected to return for the Dallas Cowboys' only mandatory minicamp next week.
That means that Romo will miss all of OTAS and minicamp before training camp opens in July. Cowboys minicamp is scheduled for June 11-13.
"We're probably going to be real conservative there and it's probably unlikely," owner Jerry Jones said. "I know I said probably unlikely, but it's still probably unlikely that he'll be in minicamp."
Jones said there has not been a setback and that the Cowboys are just being cautious.
"There's nothing I don't know about (Romo's condition)," Jones said. "He's coming along great. He's going to be ready to go and have his strength and conditioning in great shape and, of course, he's spending all kinds of time looking at tape and doing the kinds of things that he wants to be doing to get ready for the season."
Right tackle Doug Free talked Tuesday for the first time since taking a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys and avoid being a June 1 cut.
Instead of making $7 million next season, Free will make $3.5 million in 2013 and could make $3.5 million in 2014 if the Cowboys keep him on the roster.
"It was kind of tough," Free said. "You never know what's exactly going to happen until it happens. It was kind of a waiting game, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I just had to be strong and just keep working hard and prove myself no matter what happened. I think both sides got what they wanted."
Free wanted to stay in Dallas and not look for a job on a depressed free agent market. He was not going to get $3.5 million on the street, let alone the original $7 million salary.
The Cowboys wanted to get his salary more in line with his declining play as well as create some room so they can sign other players
Free has started every game over the last three seasons but struggled so badly in 2012 that he ended the season splitting time with backup Jermey Parnell.
The two will compete for a starting job in camp this season.
"There's always competition no matter where you are or what position you're at," Free said. "They never give you a spot. You always got to compete and play for it. It's going to be a competition, for sure."
"I think any time you get challenged by something, one way or another, you're either going to get stronger and play better or you're going to get weaker and play worse," Free said. "I think last year, the competition definitely improved my game, helped me focus and also got me improved."
Tight end Dante Rosario was signed to a one-year deal by the Cowboys. He will get the veteran minimum and count $550,000 against the cap next season, giving the Cowboys four tight ends with a good chance to make the roster in addition to Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar and James Hanna.
Rosario can play some H-back, fullback and also help out on special teams. It's another indication of the team's focus on moving to a two-tight end set and preparing for life without a fullback.