Jason Witten is putting his chips on the table.
Returning from a one-year retirement spell, the Dallas Cowboys‘ longtime tight end (and now-former ESPN analyst) is confident that he can step right back into his role as a safety blanket for quarterback Dak Prescott.
How confident? Witten, who turned 37 this offseason, boasted to NBC Sports’ Peter King that “I’m gonna be really good” in 2019.
“So many times, when you come back … What’s your role? … Listen: I’m not gonna get caught up in the roadkill of that,” he told King. “I think I’m gonna be really good. I’ve worked hard. My expectations have always been more than anybody’s put on me. Will I catch 100 passes? Probably not. Can I help this team win football games? I believe so. That’s the ultimate challenge. I gotta show that. This young team, it’s a talented roster. The impact you can have on a daily basis … every day I’m thinking, How can I make them [teammates] better through my personal experiences? It’s a show-me game. I was taught that early on, as a 21-year-old kid, green as can be, coming into Dallas. You better be able to show it. I’ll live with the results, because I know what I’m all about.”
Catching 100 passes may be a pipe dream for Witten, but he should function as an integral part of the offense, even after his stint away from football. The Cowboys proved that in Saturday’s preseason victory over the Rams, when Witten snagged a 10-yard reception that set up Tony Pollard’s rushing touchdown.
Naturally, Witten’s third-down grab moved the chains — and the butterflies from his stomach.
“It felt really good. I was very anxious to get out there and play,” he said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It is just the next step in the comeback. I worked really hard to get back in shape. I hold myself to a high standard, so I can say it was not perfect. I got a little antsy early but had a big third down conversion on an option route. That was big.”
An 11-time Pro Bowler, Witten has totaled 1,152 receptions for 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns across 15 seasons. His last regular season action came on Dec. 31, 2017, when he caught two passes for six yards in a 6-0 win over the Eagles.
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Witten Reacts to Zeke Zing
Holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott might be the engine that makes Dallas’ offense go, but he isn’t immune to discussion from his teammates. Witten was asked about owner Jerry Jones’ controversial “Zeke who?” remark, uttered after the Rams game, and claimed he liked what he heard.
“So great. That’s beautiful,” Witten said, per the Dallas Morning News. “For Tony (Pollard), since he got here, what an incredible camp he’s had. You’re certainly going to have a high level of talent to play in this league, especially at running back, but the instincts that you have, when they show up that way, that you’re a quick learner, you’re going to figure it out and adjust.
“It’s a great opportunity for him. They probably wouldn’t have been afforded without Ezekiel here.”
Return to The Star
Having broken camp in Oxnard, Calif., and emerged victorious in Hawaii, the Cowboys reconvened at team headquarters to resume practice ahead of Saturday’s regular season dress rehearsal against the Houston Texans. Starters, including Witten, could see upwards of an entire half in the closest simulation to games that, you know, actually count.
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