PHOENIX — Jason Garrett acknowledges he has nothing to use as a comparison to the situation the Dallas Cowboys have with veteran tight end Jason Witten deciding to end his retirement after one year and return to the team.
After spending the 2018 season as an analyst for ESPN’s coverage of Monday Night Football, Witten believed he still had something to give as a player. The Cowboys gladly welcomed him back.
‘This is new ground for all of us’
What sort of contribution is Garrett expecting Witten, who turns 37 in May, to make?
“He’s up there with the best I’ve ever been around. He’s going to be, in my view, a first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end.”
“Well, I haven’t been around the situation very much, to be honest, with a guy who plays 15 years and goes into the broadcast booth and then comes back,” the coach told Alex Marvez and John Clayton on Late Hits at the NFL meeting at the Arizona Biltmore. “So this is new ground for all of us. But I would not bet against Jason Witten in terms of a guy who loves the game, works at the game, cares about the game, studies the game, takes care of his body. He’s up there with the best I’ve ever been around. He’s going to be, in my view, a first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end.
‘He loves being a player in the National Football League’
“And that’s the level he’s played to throughout his career. I just think line one with Witten, he loves the game. He loves being a player in the National Football League. And I think that’s why he wrestled so much with the decision to go into the broadcast booth last year. It was a great opportunity for him, but I think he continued to want to play. And I think he listened to that, he listened to his heart, and wanted to come back after the season. We’re certainly excited to have him back. He looks great. I think he took care of his body and he’s excited to get going again.”
Garrett said he would be mindful of the amount of snaps Witten takes in order to be sure he is physically able to perform at the highest level possible.
‘For years, he never would come out of a practice’
“You know, the biggest thing is to get them back going again and playing,” Garrett said. “If you follow his career, he literally played every game – he played every snap of every game. So I think that’s probably too much to ask of him right now. We started to kind of try to dial that back over the last couple years. For years, he never would come out of a practice. He certainly wouldn’t take a practice off. He’s just that kind of a guy. And that’s why he’s the player that he’s been.”
The Cowboys are happy with the tight end depth they have with last season’s emergence of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz.
‘We want to create a competitive situation’
“Those guys did a good job for us in the roles that they had, so we want to continue to help those guys grow,” Garrett said. “At the same time, we want to create a competitive situation. So we anticipate all three of those guys playing and all three of those guys having an impact on our team. We also have Rico Gathers, who’s continuing to grow and develop. So once we get back into the football part of we get on the field, all that stuff will shake itself out.”
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