71) How Much Longer Will Jason Witten Continue To Play?


IRVING, Texas --As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 71 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the teams' veterans:

71) How Much Longer Will Jason Witten Play?

Probably the Cowboys' greatest No. 71, Mark Tuinei is tied with Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Bill Bates for the honor of the franchise's longest-tenured player at 15 seasons.

Could that honor fall to someone on the current roster? If so, it'd have to be Jason Witten at this point in time. Witten was selected from the Tennessee Volunteers in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft, which means 2013 will be his 11th season in a Cowboys uniform.

Witten has probably been the most consistently good thing about the Cowboys for the past six or seven years, as he continues to pace the passing game and set team records. The Knoxville, Tenn., native has a realistic shot to eclipse both 10,000 career yards and 50 career touchdowns this fall, if he can stay healthy.

That hasn't been a problem in the past, as he's missed just two starts since he became the starter in 2004. That's two missed starts in 10 seasons – a Herculean feat for any NFL player, let alone one who plays such a physical position.

Of course, in order to pass Tuinei and Co. for the honor of longest-tenured Cowboy, Witten will have to maintain that pace for six more seasons. It's certainly possible. He just turned 31, and fellow top tight end Tony Gonzalez is still in the league at an impressive 37 years old.

Cowboys brass have stressed that 2013 second round pick Gavin Escobar was selected to compliment Witten, rather than replace him. It will be interesting to see how that works out as Witten moves into the later stages of his career.

Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 71:

  • 1971 is a big year for Cowboys fans and historians for one simple reason: the 1971 season produced the team's first-ever world championship. Dallas fell to 4-3 on Oct.31, 1971 in a 23-19 loss to Chicago, and they would not lose again. The Cowboys reeled off seven straight wins to close out the regular season, and their defense took over in the playoffs. Dallas allowed just 18 combined points in three playoff games en route to a 24-3 crushing of Miami in Super Bowl VI.
  • A major factor in that 10-game winning streak was Roger Staubach, who wrested the starting job from Craig Morton after the loss to the Bears. Staubach threw for 1,882 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the road to the championship.
  • 71 is the all-time best mark for receiving touchdowns in a Cowboys career, which is held by wide receiver Bob Hayes, who was the team's top target from 1965-74. [embedded_ad]
  • In the 14-3 NFC Championship Game win against San Francisco that season, the Cowboys set a franchise record for single-game rushing attempts with 51. A bit of a surprising stat, since Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith were yet to begin their careers.
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