FRISCO, Texas – This time of year feels like it should be for rest and relaxation.
After all, thanks to the marketing genius of the NFL, June is essentially the only month on the calendar that truly feels like the offseason.
In this day and age, NFL players start their conditioning in February, not long after the Super Bowl. Those workouts roll into April, which soon sees them turn into OTAs and minicamp. When teams report to training camp in late July, the grind rolls on until New Year’s – and longer, for those fortunate enough to make the playoffs.
It’d be understandable if players want to look for some downtime during this one month with no events on the schedule.
But if you’re 37 years old and preparing for your first training camp after a year away from the game, you might favor a different approach. That sounds like the case for Jason Witten, who feels like he has progress still to make.
“I’ve still got to build toward it,” Witten said last week. “Yeah, it’s been a good offseason for me and making that decision at the end of February, early March – that helps me, because I’ve had a whole offseason. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do, clean up and knock some of that rust off.”
At this point, Witten has been back in the fold for so long that it feels like he never left. The perennial Pro Bowler was back inside the Cowboys’ facility within days of announcing his return from retirement, and he has been a mainstay in the three months since.
Even still, offseason workouts and non-contact practices are a far cry from the month-long grind of daily training camp practices, not to mention the conditioning required for a 17-week season.
Witten is aware of that, and he said he intends to attack the next month to prepare for that.
“These next five, six weeks will be really important for me for what I want to accomplish and what I can bring,” he said. “So I know it’s still building for me, and I’ll approach it much like I did when I was younger in my training and how I go about it.”
It’s been obvious through the spring that the Cowboys have a plan for their “new” addition. Famous for never taking days off, Witten saw a reduced workload, typically taking one day off during each week of OTAs.
For a guy entering his 16th NFL season, it’s an obvious attempt to keep Witten fresh for what’s ahead, and it’s a change he’s embraced since returning.
“They’ve had a good plan for me, it’s been successful and we’ll continue to monitor that,” he said. “So yeah, you’ve got to be patient.”
It’s a different approach to a familiar situation. But if Witten’s enthusiasm during minicamp is any indicator, he figures to be the same driving force as usual once the Cowboys get to California.
After a year away from training camp, it sounds like he’s looking forward to it.
“I love all that it entails,” he said. “From the preparation individually, the grind of going through it, spending time with those guys, day and night – from meetings to the rookie jokes that happen. And then on the field, just seeing that product start to come together and see the team come together. There’s nothing like it, in my opinion.”